Exit Date Is 20 Years After Attacks That Spurred Longest U.S. War

The decision will keep more than 3,000 troops on the ground in Afghanistan beyond the May 1 withdrawal deadline announced by the Trump administration.,

LiveUpdated April 13, 2021, 3:51 p.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 3:51 p.m. ET

The decision will keep more than 3,000 American troops in Afghanistan beyond the May 1 deadline that was announced under the Trump administration.

U.S. Army troops returned from a deployment to Afghanistan in December.
U.S. Army troops returned from a deployment to Afghanistan in December.Credit…John Moore/Getty Images

President Biden has decided to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 20 years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon launched the country into its longest war, United States officials said Tuesday.

The decision will keep more than 3,000 American troops on the ground in Afghanistan beyond the May 1 withdrawal deadline announced by the administration of former President Donald J. Trump.

But it signals what Mr. Biden plans to present as a definitive end to America’s “Forever War.”

Administration officials said that since Mr. Biden was fixing a definite date on an American troop withdrawal, he hoped to avoid an increase in violence — which the Taliban have threatened if the United States kept troops beyond May 1.

The decision was reported earlier Tuesday by The Washington Post.

A new intelligence report released Tuesday offered a grim assessment of Afghanistan and the prospects for peace. American intelligence agencies assessed that a peace deal was unlikely in the next year, and that the Taliban would make battlefield gains.

“The Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support,” the report said.

Military and other officials who favored troops remaining in the country longer had used a similar classified intelligence assessment to argue for a slower drawdown, worried that an exit of American troops could trigger a wider civil war and an eventual return of terrorist groups.

The report released Tuesday did not contain an assessment of the likelihood of a return of Al Qaeda to Afghanistan, and some senior officials remain skeptical the Taliban would allow it. The report did say that Afghan government forces continued to hold major cities. But they have been “tied down in defensive missions and have struggled to hold recaptured territory.”

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III are in Europe this week and no doubt will be discussing Mr. Biden’s withdrawal plans with NATO allies.

Afghan officials are afraid that Mr. Biden’s decision to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond the May 1 deadline, as outlined in last year’s peace deal, would pressure Kabul’s government to release the roughly 7,000 Taliban prisoners the insurgent group has long asked to be freed.

Right now, those prisoners and the lifting of United Nations sanctions were some of the last leverage the United States had over the Taliban. The Afghan government has been staunchly opposed to any further prisoner release.

After 5,000 Taliban prisoners were released last fall to start negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, government officials say many of them returned to the battlefield.

Withdrawing by Sept. 11 “essentially means that the Biden administration policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ to pressure Afghan parties to reach a political settlement is not working,” said Tamim Asey, a former Afghan deputy defense minister under President Ashraf Ghani.

Officer William F. Evans of the Capitol Police, who was killed when a car rammed into him outside the Capitol this month, lay in honor on Tuesday in the building he gave his life protecting, the latest tragedy for a police force still reeling from the mob violence of Jan. 6.

In a ceremony beneath the soaring Capitol Dome, President Biden, grief-stricken fellow officers and leaders of Congress remembered Officer Evans as an unflappable 18-year veteran of the force, whose service was shaped as much by laughter as steadfast loyalty, and a doting father who loved Legos and Harry Potter.

“He was defined by his dignity, his decency, his loyalty and his courage,” said Mr. Biden, who summoned the tragedies that have shaped his own life to speak directly to Officer Evans’s family and fellow officers.

“Never has there been more strain,” the president said, “on the shoulders of Capitol Police.”

Officer Evans, 41, was the second member of the Capitol Police force killed in the line of duty to be honored in the Rotunda in just over two months. Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who was attacked by the rioters who stormed the Capitol in January, lay in honor in February.

The Capitol Police have named Noah R. Green, 25, as the man who rammed his car into two officers outside the Capitol on Good Friday, killing Officer Evans. The second officer, Ken Shaver, suffered injuries that were not life-threatening and lay a wreath beside Officer Evans’s coffin. Other officers who frequently manned the Senate security checkpoint where he was struck stood together, saluting him.

“His death has left a gaping void in our lives that will never be filled,” Officer Evans’s family said in a statement released last week.

On Tuesday, Officer Evans’s wife wiped away tears as the nation’s top leaders paid tribute. When his daughter Abigail, 7, dropped a toy version of the Capitol Dome, the president crossed the aisle and picked it up for her. Mr. Biden also gave a challenge coin to the fallen officer’s son, Logan, 9, who wore a police cap and clutched a stuffed bear.

Speaking directly to the children, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told them their father now lay where Abraham Lincoln once had in death. He, too, she said was a “martyr for our democracy.”

And Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, described Officer Evans as “famous within the Senate for his friendly spirit and easy manner.”

For the Capitol Police force, hundreds of whom were on hand to witness Officer Evans’ last trip into the Capitol, it was yet another painful chapter in an excruciating year. The agency has been struggling since Jan. 6, when hundreds of pro-Trump rioters attacked the Capitol in an attempt to stop the formalization of Mr. Biden’s victory and keep former President Donald J. Trump in power. The rampage injured nearly 140 police officers.

Two Capitol Police officers, James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby, have sued Mr. Trump for the injuries they sustained.

“These past few months have been devastating. Just as the scars of Jan. 6 had begun to heal, another wound was opened,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said on Tuesday. “I say to you now, our dear Capitol Police force that protects us: There is no shame in grief and sorrow and shock.”

A Ukrainian soldier patrolled near the frontline with Russia-backed separatists in the Donetsk region on Monday.
A Ukrainian soldier patrolled near the frontline with Russia-backed separatists in the Donetsk region on Monday.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BRUSSELS — The United States and NATO, anxious about a major Russian troop buildup on Ukraine’s border, signaled strong support for the Kyiv government on Tuesday.

And in what was considered another message to Moscow, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said in Germany on Tuesday that the United States would increase its military presence there by about 500 personnel and that it was scuttling plans introduced under President Donald J. Trump for a large troop reduction in Europe.

The moves come as American and European officials have grown increasingly concerned about Moscow’s deployment of additional troops near the Ukraine border, more than at any time since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, in violation of international law. Since then, Russian troops have been engaged in fomenting a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine and consolidating their hold on Crimea.

The message regarding Kyiv was delivered in separate meetings in Brussels with Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba.

“The U.S. stands firmly behind the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken told Mr. Kuleba.

Mr. Blinken and Mr. Austin will appear at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday for an emergency gathering of all NATO foreign and defense ministers — partly virtual — to discuss how to further support Ukraine.

Coupled with President Biden’s harsh words about President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia last month, the expansion of United States troops and the reversal of Mr. Trump’s plans to withdraw up to 12,000 of the roughly 36,000 stationed in Germany will not go unnoticed in the Kremlin.

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin spoke on the phone for the first time since Mr. Biden assented to a description of Mr. Putin as a “killer” during an interview, which sparked a furious reaction in Russia.

According to a White House summary of the call, Mr. Biden expressed concern over the Russian military buildup near Ukraine, and called on Mr. Putin to de-escalate tensions. A more terse Kremlin summary of the conversation referred to “an internal Ukrainian crisis,” without mentioning a troop buildup.

Russia is widely seen as testing Mr. Biden and keeping the pressure on Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, who has moved against some of the Kremlin’s favorite oligarchs.

Visitors looking at artificial intelligence security cameras with facial recognition technology at the China International Exhibition on Public Safety and Security in Beijing in 2018.
Visitors looking at artificial intelligence security cameras with facial recognition technology at the China International Exhibition on Public Safety and Security in Beijing in 2018.Credit…Nicolas Asfouri/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

China’s effort to expand its growing influence represents one of the largest threats to the United States, according to a major annual intelligence report released on Tuesday, which also warned that Beijing was capable of cyberattacks that could temporarily disrupt critical infrastructure in the United States.

The report puts China’s push for “global power” first on the list of threats, followed by Russia, Iran and North Korea. There are typically few broad revelations in the annual reports, which are a collection of declassified assessments, although the intelligence agencies’ ranking of threats and how they change over time can be telling.

“Beijing, Moscow, Tehran and Pyongyang have demonstrated the capability and intent to advance their interests at the expense of the United States and its allies, despite the pandemic,” the report said. “China increasingly is a near-peer competitor, challenging the United States in multiple arenas — especially economically, militarily and technologically — and is pushing to change global norms.”

The section on Iran could influence the negotiations over the United States rejoining the nuclear deal. Importantly, the intelligence agencies assess that Iran “is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities” needed to build a nuclear device. But Iranian leaders, the report said, are most likely to remain reluctant to engage in talks with the United States without sanctions relief.

The intelligence assessment also offered a grim assessment on Afghanistan, just days before President Biden is set to announce when he will pull the last troops out of the country. The intelligence agencies believe a prospect for a peace deal remains low and the Taliban is likely to make battlefield gains, the report said. In recent weeks, officials saying American troops should remain longer have used the assessment to reinforce their arguments.

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China’s strategy, according to the report, is to drive wedges between the United States and its allies. Beijing has also used its success in combating the Covid-19 pandemic to promote the “superiority of its system.”

The report predicts that China will press the government of Taiwan to move forward with unification, and criticize efforts by the United States to step up engagement with Taipei. But the report stopped short of predicting any kind of direct military conflict.

China uses its electronic surveillance and hacking capabilities to not only repress dissent inside its country but also conduct intrusions that affect people beyond its borders, the report said. Also, China represents a growing threat of cyberattacks against the United States, and the intelligence agencies assess that Beijing “at a minimum, can cause localized, temporary disruptions to critical infrastructure within the United States.”

There are few surprises in the intelligence assessment of Russia. It makes clear despite many viewing Moscow as a declining power, American spy agencies still see it as a pre-eminent threat, noting how a Russian supply chain hacking operation created vulnerabilities in some 18,000 computer networks worldwide. The assessment said while Russia would avoid direct conflict with America, it would use influence campaigns, mercenary operations and military exercises to advance its interests and undermine those of the United States.

While the report emphasizes the traditional kinds of national security threats facing the nation, it does give a nod to the challenges of climate change and global pandemics, which the Biden administration has said the intelligence agencies will study more closely. The threats, for the most part, are long term, but can also have short-term impacts, the report said.

“The American people should know as much as possible about the threats facing our nation and what their intelligence agencies are doing to protect them,” said Avril B. Haines, the director of national intelligence, whose office released the report.

The new report will be followed by congressional testimony by Ms. Haines; William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director; and other top intelligence officials on Wednesday and Thursday.

An apartment complex  in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2019. Zoning restrictions in many suburbs have been used to limit construction of multifamily buildings, which attract a more diverse population of renters.
An apartment complex in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2019. Zoning restrictions in many suburbs have been used to limit construction of multifamily buildings, which attract a more diverse population of renters.Credit…Christopher Lee for The New York Times

Former President Donald J. Trump made a thinly veiled racial appeal to white suburban voters during the height of protests against police violence last summer, touting his rollback of an Obama-era desegregation program as proof he had “saved” the suburbs.

On Monday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development took the first steps necessary to restore the regulation, called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, by submitting a plan to the White House budget office that would quickly get it back on the books.

The department also submitted a request to restore the 2013 “disparate impact” rule, another regulation aimed at stopping bias in housing, which was eliminated under Mr. Trump.

“The president has every confidence in HUD to advance a regulatory agenda rooted in fairness and equity,” an agency spokeswoman, Meaghan B. Lynch, wrote in an email.

Both rules are expected to be approved, according to two administration officials with direct knowledge of the decisions.

The fair housing rule, adopted in 2015, requires localities to identify and address patterns of racial segregation outlawed under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 by creating detailed corrective plans, or face the possible loss of federal grants.

Its main targets are single-family suburban zoning restrictions that have historically been used to limit construction of multifamily buildings, which attract a more diverse population of renters.

The one-line announcement on the Office of Management and Budget’s website late Monday night was a stark contrast to Mr. Trump’s bullhorn approach to the issue.

Ben Carson, Mr. Trump’s housing secretary, scrapped the rule in July. The timing of Mr. Carson’s announcement coincided with Mr. Trump’s accusation that protesters were terrorists, and was made in consultation with White House officials, according to two people involved in the matter.

Mr. Trump made the rule a none-too-subtle theme during the final days of the campaign, saying he was fighting for the “suburban housewives of America.” He punctuated one speech in Michigan last October with the plea, “suburban women, you’re supposed to love Trump!”

Mr. Biden meets with the Congressional Black Caucus, whose members strongly support restoration of the regulations, on Tuesday. One of the group’s former members is Marcia L. Fudge, his new housing secretary, who has said she will revitalize HUD’s fair housing division, which withered under Mr. Carson.

The administration’s infrastructure package, which includes $213 billion for housing, is also expected to include provisions requiring localities to prove their zoning laws are not discriminatory.

Critics have argued that the rule, and others like it, is a dangerous overreach by federal officials, and have pointed to HUD’s ineffective desegregation efforts in suburban Westchester County, N.Y., as proof such policies are divisive and unworkable.

Mr. Biden, whose comeback in the Democratic primaries last year was fueled by strong support among Black voters, disagrees.

Six days after he was sworn in, the White House released a memo promising to attack housing discrimination against “Black, Latino, Asian-American and Pacific Islander, and Native American families.”

Ms. Lynch declined to say whether the renewed regulations would be expanded or changed.

Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, vowed revenge against Israel.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, vowed revenge against Israel.Credit…Vahid Salemi/Associated Press

The last time the centrifuges crashed at Iran’s underground nuclear fuel-production center at Natanz, more than a decade ago, the sabotage was the result of a joint Israeli-American cyberattack intended to slow Tehran’s progress toward nuclear weapons and force a diplomatic negotiation.

When they crashed again this weekend, the White House asserted that the United States had no involvement.

The operation raised the question of whether Israel was acting on its own to strike Iran and undermine American diplomacy as the Biden administration seeks to reconstitute a nuclear agreement. Or, alternatively, whether Israel was operating in concert with American interests, carrying out dirty work that would weaken Iran’s negotiating position in the talks.

The White House was saying almost nothing in public about the apparent explosion inside Iran’s Natanz facility, below more than 20 feet of reinforced concrete, which destroyed the power supply that keeps the centrifuges spinning at supersonic speeds, enriching uranium.

“The U.S. was not involved in any manner,” the White House spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said Monday. “We have nothing to add on speculation about the causes or the impacts.”

While Israel usually stays silent when attacks like this happen, Israeli news outlets, citing intelligence sources, attributed this one to the Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.

White House officials did not comment on whether the United States had been given advance notice of the attack.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, who landed in Israel on Sunday, the morning the attack took place, held two press briefings before he left Israel on Monday and never once uttered the word Iran.

White House and State Department officials said they had no idea whether the Iranians would show up in Vienna again on Wednesday, when the talks were scheduled to resume.

In Tehran, lawmakers asked Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to suspend the talks, saying that Iran should not be engaged in negotiations when it is under attack.

“Talks under pressure have no meaning,” Abbas Moghtadaie, the deputy chairman of Parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, said in a Clubhouse talk on Monday. “This was a message we conveyed very clearly today.”

The Biden administration is seeking to revive an agreement, scuttled by President Donald J. Trump three years ago, in which Iran accepted limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, opposed the original agreement and has made no secret of his opposition to resurrecting it.

Mr. Zarif, in a statement broadcast by Iranian state television, said that Israel wanted “to take revenge because of our progress.”

“But we will take our revenge on the Zionists,” he said.

Nearly seven million people in the United States have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine so far. Use of the shot was paused after six U.S. recipients developed a rare disorder involving blood clots.
Nearly seven million people in the United States have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine so far. Use of the shot was paused after six U.S. recipients developed a rare disorder involving blood clots.Credit…Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Federal health agencies on Tuesday called for an immediate pause in use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine after six recipients in the United States developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within about two weeks of vaccination.

All six recipients were women between the ages of 18 and 48. One woman died and a second woman in Nebraska has been hospitalized in critical condition.

Nearly seven million people in the United States have received Johnson & Johnson shots so far, and roughly nine million more doses have been shipped out to the states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the C.D.C., said in a joint statement. “Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare.”

At a news conference later on Tuesday morning, Dr. Marks said that “on an individual basis, a provider and patient can make a determination whether or not to receive the vaccine” manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.

While the move was framed as a recommendation to health practitioners in the states, the impact was immediate. The federal government temporarily halted administration of the Johnson & Johnson shots by the U.S. military, providers at federally run sites and CVS and Walgreens, two pharmacy giants that participate in a federal vaccination program.

The authorities in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and numerous other states also paused the vaccinations.

Scientists with the F.D.A. and C.D.C. will jointly examine possible links between the vaccine and the disorder and determine whether the F.D.A. should continue to authorize use of the vaccine for all adults or limit the authorization. An emergency meeting of the C.D.C.’s outside advisory committee has been scheduled for Wednesday.

The move could substantially complicate the nation’s vaccination efforts at a time when many states are confronting a surge in new cases and seeking to address vaccine hesitancy.

Regulators in Europe and elsewhere are concerned about a similar issue with another coronavirus vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University researchers. That concern has driven up some resistance to all vaccines, even though the AstraZeneca version has not been authorized for emergency use in the United States.

The vast majority of the nation’s vaccine supply comes from two other manufacturers, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which together deliver more than 23 million doses a week of their two-shot vaccines. There have been no significant safety concerns about either of those vaccines.

But while shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been much more limited, the Biden administration had still been counting on using hundreds of thousands of doses every week. In addition to requiring only a single dose, the vaccine is easier to ship and store than the other two, which must be stored at extremely low temperatures.

The development also throws a wrench into the Biden administration’s plans to deliver enough vaccine to be able to inoculate all 260 million adults in the United States by the end of May. Now federal officials expect there will only be enough to cover fewer than 230 million adults. But a certain percentage of the population is expected to refuse shots, so the supply may cover all the demand.

Republicans' proposed measures would roll back some of the expanded access to absentee ballots that Michigan voters approved by a two-to-one margin in 2018.
Republicans’ proposed measures would roll back some of the expanded access to absentee ballots that Michigan voters approved by a two-to-one margin in 2018.Credit…Sylvia Jarrus for The New York Times

Michigan is living up to its reputation as a battleground state, in a year free of major elections but full of many other consequential conflicts.

The Biden administration and Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, are locked in an increasingly tense standoff over the state’s worst-in-the-nation coronavirus outbreak, with a top federal health official on Monday urging the governor to lock down her state to save lives.

Ms. Whitmer is pushing back, continuing to press her case that the Biden administration needs to send more doses of vaccine immediately — as she seeks to shift responsibility onto Washington and to avoid reimposing politically unpopular lockdowns in her state.

The federal government has offered to send Michigan extra supplies of monoclonal antibody treatments and is sending more tests to the state.

But on Monday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that securing extra vaccine doses was not the most immediate or practical solution to the outbreak.

She suggested Ms. Whitmer, whose metro areas include 16 of the 17 worst outbreaks in the nation, needed to enact shutdown measures to stamp out the crush of infections.

“The answer is not necessarily to give vaccine,” she told reporters at the White House. “The answer to that is to really close things down, to go back to our basics, to go back to where we were last spring, last summer, and to shut things down.”

White House officials have said they are working with Michigan to help the state use the doses it still has on shelves. Eighty percent of those delivered so far have been administered, according to data reported by the C.D.C.

The state is averaging seven times as many cases each day as it was in late February. Nonetheless, Ms. Whitmer has stopped well short of the far-reaching shutdowns that made her a political lightning rod last summer, with armed protesters storming the Statehouse.

If addressing the pandemic was not enough, Ms. Whitmer — who faces a tough re-election fight next year — is now also bracing for the possibility that Republicans in the state legislature will use a process outlined in the state Constitution to push voting restrictions similar to the ones passed by Georgia.

Ms. Whitmer said last month she would veto any bill imposing new restrictions. But unlike in other states with divided governments, Michigan’s Constitution offers Republicans a rarely used option for circumventing Ms. Whitmer’s veto: a voter-driven petition process.

Last month, the state’s Republican chairman told activists that he aimed to do just that. In response, Michigan Democrats and voting rights activists are contemplating a competing petition drive, while also scrambling to round up corporate opposition to the bills.

On Tuesday, leaders of major businesses, including top executives at Ford, General Motors, Detroit’s chamber of commerce, Quicken, the Detroit Pistons, the Detroit Lions and others, co-signed a letter that expressed broad opposition to any “actions that reduce participation in elections” and called on politicians to enact any changes in “a bipartisan fashion.”

The letter was part of an apparent effort by Michigan’s two largest companies, Ford and General Motors, to get ahead of the issue, rather than come under pressure after laws are passed, as happened to two big Georgia-based companies, Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines.

On Tuesday, G.M. posted a statement calling on the state legislature to ensure that any changes to voting laws protect “the right for all eligible voters to have their voices included in a fair, free and equitable manner.”

A view of the Kennedy Caucus Room on Capitol Hill in March, 2020, set up for a Republican policy lunch that was attended by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky.
A view of the Kennedy Caucus Room on Capitol Hill in March, 2020, set up for a Republican policy lunch that was attended by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky.Credit…Susan Walsh/Associated Press

Senate Democrats gathered in person for their lunchtime caucus meeting on Tuesday for the first time in more than a year, as Capitol Hill slowly begins to loosen some restrictions implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But because of continued concerns about the virus, it was a lunch in name only; a Democratic aide said no food was being served.

Senators in both parties have long gathered for weekly luncheons in the Capitol to discuss upcoming legislation and issues over a midday meal. But the confabs abruptly ceased in March of 2020 after Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky tested positive for the coronavirus, sending multiple lawmakers and staff members into quarantine.

Senate Republicans eventually returned to hosting in-person luncheons in a larger room during the final months of 2020, but Democrats have stuck with virtual meetings.

Now that all members of Congress and a growing number of staff members have access to the coronavirus vaccine, Democrats opted to resume their in-person gathering on Tuesday, although they held it in a larger room than usual and without the customary lunch spread.

The in-person gathering was the latest indication that Capitol Hill is returning to its normal routines as the vaccine becomes more widely available. The meeting also comes as Democrats are weighing a number of policy and strategy decisions over how to pass legislation — including President Biden’s infrastructure plan and voting rights legislation — that would fulfill the campaign promises that delivered them control of the chamber.

Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a roundtable discussion at the White House on Tuesday.
Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a roundtable discussion at the White House on Tuesday.Credit…Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The White House on Tuesday issued its first-ever presidential proclamation marking Black Maternal Health Week as part of the administration’s broader efforts to draw attention to and address the vast racial gaps in pregnancy and childbirth-related deaths and complications in the United States.

“Black women in our country are facing a maternal health crisis,” said Vice President Kamala Harris, who hosted a round table on the issue alongside Susan Rice, director of the Domestic Policy Council.

“We know the primary reasons why: systemic racial inequities and implicit bias,” Ms. Harris added.

The U.S. continues to have the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world, driven in large part by the high mortality rates among Black mothers. Approximately 700 women die each year as a result of pregnancy or its complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than white women.

Maternal health discrepancies are intertwined with infant mortality: Black infants are more than twice as likely to die than white infants — 10.8 per 1,000 Black babies, compared with 4.6 per 1,000 white babies.

In an often emotional discussion, three Black women shared their birth experiences, highlighting how structural racism led to stillbirths and near-death experiences. Often, they said, doctors simply didn’t take their health concerns and symptoms seriously until it was too late.

“The number one thing I hear is, ‘They’re not listening to me,'” said Heather Wilson, who lost her own child and became a bereavement doula to help other families navigate their loss. “There were times that I felt that way, too.”

“We just need to be listened to and heard, especially when it comes to pain throughout the reproductive system,” said Erica McAfee, founder and chief executive of Sisters in Loss, a podcast that features mothers who have experienced loss.

Maternal and infant mortality is also just one part of maternal health, noted Elizabeth Howell, chair of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania, who also participated in the round table.

“For every maternal death, over 100 women experience a severe complication related to pregnancy and childbirth — something we call severe maternal morbidity, and it impacts over 50,000 women in the United States every year,” she said.

“Similar to maternal mortality, Black and brown women have elevated rates of maternal morbidity,” Dr. Howell added.

In addition to the presidential proclamation, the administration outlined several actions to specifically address the maternal health issues through the American Rescue Plan, which passed in March, including earmarking $30 million for implicit bias training for health care providers and a provision that allows states to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to a full year.

On Monday, Illinois became the first state to do just that, and it is expected to improve health outcomes for Black mothers.

If confirmed by the Senate, Samantha Power will rejoin the government as an administrator of soft power with the United States Agency for International Development.
If confirmed by the Senate, Samantha Power will rejoin the government as an administrator of soft power with the United States Agency for International Development.Credit…Pool photo by Greg Nash

Near the end of the 2014 documentary “Watchers of the Sky,” which chronicles the origins of the legal definition of genocide, Samantha Power grows emotional. At the time, Ms. Power was President Barack Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, and, she said, had “great visibility into a lot of the pain” in the world.

From that perch, preventing mass atrocities abroad required “thinking through what we can do about it, to exhaust the tools at your disposal,” Ms. Power said in the film. “And I always think about the privilege of, you know, of getting to try — just to try.”

Few doubt Ms. Power’s zeal — given her career as a war correspondent, human rights activist, academic expert and foreign policy adviser — even if it has meant advocating military force to stop widespread killings.

Now, as President Biden’s nominee to lead the United States Agency for International Development, she is preparing to rejoin the government as an administrator of soft power, and resist using weapons as a means of deterrence and punishment that she has pushed for in the past.

A Senate committee is expected to vote Thursday on her nomination to lead one of the world’s largest distributors of humanitarian aid.

If she is confirmed, Mr. Biden will also seat her on the National Security Council, where during the Obama administration she pressed for military invention to protect civilians from state-sponsored attacks in Libya in 2011 and Syria in 2013.

That she will be back at the table at the council — and again almost certain to be debating whether to entangle American forces in enduring conflicts — has concerned some officials, analysts and think tank experts who demand military restraint from the Biden administration.

“If you’re talking about humanitarianism, famine, the wars — really, other than natural causes, war is the No. 1 cause of famine around the world,” Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, told Ms. Power last month during her Senate confirmation hearing. “Are you willing to admit that the Libyan and Syrian interventions that you advocated for were a mistake?”

Ms. Power did not. “When these situations arise, it’s a question almost of lesser evils — that the choices are very challenging,” she said.

Charles Rettig, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, said during a Senate Finance Committee hearing that the agency lacks the resources to go after tax cheats.
Charles Rettig, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, said during a Senate Finance Committee hearing that the agency lacks the resources to go after tax cheats.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The United States is losing approximately $1 trillion in unpaid taxes every year, Charles Rettig, the Internal Revenue Service commissioner, estimated on Tuesday, arguing that the agency lacks the resources to catch tax cheats.

The so-called tax gap has surged in the last decade. The last official estimate from the I.R.S. was that an average of $441 billion per year went unpaid from 2011 to 2013. Most of the unpaid taxes are the result of evasion by the wealthy and large corporations, Mr. Rettig said.

“We do get outgunned,” Mr. Rettig said during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the upcoming tax season.

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the Democratic chairman of the committee, called the $1 trillion tax gap a “jaw-dropping figure.”

“The fact is that nurses and firefighters have to pay with every paycheck and so many highfliers can get off,” Mr. Wyden said.

Mr. Rettig attributed the growing tax gap to the rise of the $2 trillion cryptocurrency sector, which remains lightly regulated and has been an avenue for tax avoidance. He also pointed to foreign-source income and the abuse of pass-through provisions in the tax code by companies.

The size of I.R.S.’s enforcement division has declined sharply in recent years, Mr. Rettig said, with its ranks falling by 17,000 over the last decade.

The spending proposal that the Biden administration released last week asked for a 10.4 percent increase above current funding levels for the tax collection agency, to $13.2 billion. The additional money would go toward increased oversight of tax returns of high-income individuals and companies and to improve customer service at the I.R.S.

President Biden is expected to announce that he plans to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11.
President Biden is expected to announce that he plans to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11.Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

The news that the Biden administration plans to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks elicited a wide range of reactions in Washington — fitting for a conflict that has divided and befuddled the nation.

With a few exceptions, the response to the move was relatively muted, reflecting a war that over time evolved from searing, front-page news into a lower-grade, if always deadly, war that many Americans forgot was being waged.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a moderate New Hampshire Democrat who backed the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq nearly two decades ago, criticized President Biden, arguing his decision could embolden the Taliban to further destabilize the country.

“I’m very disappointed in @POTUS‘ decision to set a Sept. deadline to walk away from Afghanistan. Although this decision was made in coordination w/our allies, the U.S. has sacrificed too much to bring stability to Afghanistan to leave w/o verifiable assurances of a secure future,” Ms. Shaheen wrote on Twitter shortly after the president announced he would withdraw all troops by Sept. 11, 2021.

Other Democrats, who were more critical of the war, applauded the announcement.

“President Biden recognizes the reality that our continued presence there does not make the U.S. or the world safer,” Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts wrote in a statement. “Year after year, military leaders told Congress and the American people that we were finally turning the corner in Afghanistan, but ultimately we were only turning in a vicious circle.”

“For nearly 20 years, we have adopted a costly war-based approach to national security and counterterrorism policy with no clear endgame,” she added.

Conspicuously quiet, however, were some of the highest-ranking Democrats on congressional committees overseeing the deployment of troops and policy in the region.

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has not yet commented on the announcement because he is waiting for an official administration briefing on the details, his office said.

Representative Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington and the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has also yet to comment, although he recently told an interviewer that his concerns were “purely logistical,” rather than opposing the idea of a total drawdown.

Early on in the Obama administration, Mr. Biden unsuccessfully lobbied President Barack Obama to reject the advice of generals who convinced him to increase troop deployments to deal with the insurgency.

Among the most striking similarities between former President Donald J. Trump and Mr. Biden is their shared commitment — expressed in vastly different ways — to withdrawing U.S. troops as quickly as possible.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have sharply divided the Republican Party in recent years. A substantial number of Republicans bucked Mr. Trump on the issue, and still believe a robust presence in the region is needed to preserve stability.

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican in the House and the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, blasted the policy shift as a capitulation.

“Wars don’t end when one side abandons the fight,” she said in a statement that echoed her father’s hawkish rhetoric in selling the wars at the start. “Withdrawing our forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 will only embolden the very jihadists who attacked our homeland on that day 20 years ago.”

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