As violence surges in Afghanistan, NATO warns Taliban attacks undermine faltering peace process

‘VIOLENCE UNACCEPTABLY HIGH’: As Afghanistan reels from another deadly attack that killed 11 Afghan intelligence workers and wounded 60 civilians, NATO has issued a stark warning that the Taliban are failing to keep their promise in a February agreement to reduce the overall level of violence in return for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

“The current level of violence — driven especially by Taliban attacks against Afghan National Defense and Security Forces — remains unacceptably high, causing instability and undermining confidence in the peace process,” said the statement issued by NATO’s North Atlantic Council, which urged the Taliban and the Afghan government to “fulfill their commitments.”

“Recent heinous attacks targeting civilians, including women, children, civil society members, religious figures, and health care workers throughout Afghanistan underscore the urgency of fulfilling these critical commitments,” NATO said.

“We echo the call of the United Nations for the Taliban to agree to a humanitarian ceasefire that applies to all sides. … It is time for all parties to seize this moment for peace.”

‘THE US HONORS ITS OBLIGATIONS’: The Pentagon avoided calling out the Taliban directly in a statement marking 135 days since the signing of a joint declaration that was supposed to be followed by inter-Afghan peace talks. In return, the United States pledged to withdraw thousands of troops by mid-summer, a commitment it says it has now met.

“As stipulated in the agreement, the United States agreed to reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 8,600 and withdraw from five bases. We have met this obligation,” said Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman. “U.S. forces in Afghanistan remain in the mid-8,000s, and five bases formerly occupied by U.S. forces have been transferred to our Afghan partners.”

The U.S. has now paused the withdrawal as it waits for the promised reduction in violence and peace talks that have failed to materialize in the 4 1/2 months since the agreement was signed.

“U.S. military presence in Afghanistan remains focused on capabilities — not numbers. We maintain the capabilities and authorities necessary to protect ourselves, our Allies and partners, and U.S. national interests,” Hoffman said. “The United States honors its obligations. All sides should reduce violence and embark on intra-Afghan negotiations capable of achieving a negotiated and lasting peace for Afghanistan.”

CIVILIAN DEATHS RISE: Government statistics show the number of civilians killed and wounded in attacks has risen since the Feb. 29 agreement was signed, according to Afghanistan’s Tolo news. Casualties dropped to 350 the month before the agreement as the Taliban pulled back as a precondition, but as soon as the ink was dry, their attacks resumed, and the numbers increased to 669 from April 20 to May 20 and 595 between May 21 and June 20, though the figure includes attacks by ISIS as well as the Taliban.

“Violence has been high, especially in recent days & weeks. Afghans continue to die in large numbers for no reason,” tweeted U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad after the Monday attack. “The Taliban’s attack … in a provincial capital contradicts their commitment to reduce violence until a permanent ceasefire is reached in intra-Afghan talks.”

“The use of major explosives to detonate a vehicle in a provincial capital is unacceptable and will strengthen those who oppose peace and plays into the hands of spoilers. All sides must reduce violence,” he said.

Good Wednesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by David Sivak and Tyler Van Dyke. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.

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HAPPENING TODAY: Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond delivers the keynote address at the virtual London Air & Space Power Conference. Streamed live on at 8:30 a.m.

ALSO TODAY: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds an on-camera, on-the-record press briefing. Streamed live at

WELCOMING UK’S 5G REVERSAL: Pompeo on Tuesday applauded the decision by the United Kingdom to ban Huawei from future 5G networks and phase out Huawei equipment from existing networks.

“With this decision, the U.K. joins a growing list of countries from around the world that are standing up for their national security by prohibiting the use of untrusted, high-risk vendors,” Pompeo said in a statement. “The momentum in favor of secure 5G is building.”

BIPARTISAN SUPPORT FROM HASC LEADERS: Democratic Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Adam Smith and top Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry issued a joint statement echoing Pompeo’s approval, calling the U.K.’s decision to ban Huawei from its 5G network “a reassuring development that will benefit not only British security and privacy, but the ability of our countries to work even more closely together on vital security matters.”

“Technical experts have determined it is impossible for Huawei to have partial access to a country’s network without the core network being exposed to significant risk,” they said. “Today’s decision is a critical step by our nation’s closest ally to protect their telecommunications networks and assure our ability to share information freely with the United Kingdom.”

HOUSE PANEL PASSES DEFENSE FUND ON PARTY-LINE VOTE: The House Appropriations Committee passed its version of the 2021 defense spending bill on a straight 30-22 party-line vote, with dissenting Republicans warning the restrictions on border wall funding and reprogramming authority could draw a veto from President Trump.

“For fiscal year 2021, the bill provides $694.6 billion in new discretionary spending authority for the Department of Defense for functions under the Defense Subcommittee’s jurisdiction, an increase of $1.3 billion above the FY 2020 enacted level, and $3.7 billion below the President’s budget request,” the committee said in a press release.

Among the bill’s more contentious provisions:

Prohibits the use of defense funds for the President’s border wall at our troops’ expense. Also requires that any unobligated funds that were taken for the border wall in fiscal year 2020 be returned to their original accounts and used for the original purposes for which they were appropriated by Congress.
Responds to the Department of Defense’s abuse of congressionally granted reprogramming privileges by reducing transfer authority from the $9.5 billion requested to $1.9 billion and placing additional oversight mechanisms on the department’s ability to reprogram funds.
Prohibits unnecessary nuclear weapons testing.
Prohibits the transfer of F-35 fighters to Turkey to prevent the exposure of cutting-edge U.S. technology to Russian missile systems.
Limits the deployment of active armed forces to the southern border unless costs are reimbursed by the requesting department or agency.
Conforms with the language included in Section 365 of H.R. 7120 regarding the transfer of any personal property of the Department of Defense to a state or local law enforcement agency.
Provides $1 million to the Army for the renaming of installations, facilities, roads, and streets that bear the name of confederate leaders and officers since the Army has the preponderance of the entities to change.

SAVING THE BONHOMME RICHARD: After more than three days in which more than 400 sailors and firefighters battled a stubborn blaze aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard, Navy officials say the fire may finally be put out sometime Wednesday, and it’s still possible the ship may be saved.

“We have investigated the four main engineering spaces and found no major damage. There is no threat to the fuel tanks, which is well below any active fires or heat sources. The ship is stable, and the structure is safe,” said Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck at a news conference on Tuesday in San Diego. “We still have an active fire, which we are combatting from both within and outside the ship from multiple access points.”

“Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Three has conducted more than 1,200 helicopter water bucket drops, which is cooling the super structure & flight deck enabling fire crews to get onboard internally to fight the fire,” said Naval Surface Forces in a tweet. “Tugs are also providing firefighting support from the waterline.”

INDUSTRY WATCH: China says it will impose unspecified sanctions on Lockheed Martin in retaliation for U.S. approval of a $620 million deal for Taiwan to buy an upgrade package for its Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles, made by the company.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made the announcement at a briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, reports Bloomberg.

“China firmly opposes U.S. arms sales to Taiwan,” Zhao said, while calling on the U.S. to cut military ties with Taiwan to avoid “further harm to bilateral relations.”