Afghanistan

Trump, Afghan President Contradict One Another on Situation There
U.S. president sees 'hornets' nest,' but Ghani says 'victory is within our sights'

U.S. Army soldiers walk as a NATO helicopter flies overhead at Forward Operating Base Connelly in the Khogyani District in the eastern province of Nangarhar, Afghanistan. President Donald Trump and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani see the situation there differently, according to comments Thursday. (WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani delivered contradictory assessments Thursday of the situation on the ground as the U.S. military operation there enters its 16th year.

Addressing reporters together on the sidelines of a U.N. General Assembly session, the leaders offered their conflicting assessments a month after Trump altered America’s strategy and deployed more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to help indigenous forces and target extremist groups.

Which of These Bills Is Not Like the Others? The Defense Budget
Testy and balky debate, like this year, still has ended with authorization for 57 straight years

Two U.S. army Blackhawk helicopters approach for landing at an airfield in Australia during a joint U.S. and Australian training exercise in July. (Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images File Photo)

For the uninitiated, it might have seemed last week like the annual legislation authorizing the nation’s military was about to come off the rails. And only now does it appear to be clamoring out of some thick mud — yet another example of a Congress so challenged when it comes to discharging even its most fundamental responsibilities.

Rest assured, though: There’s truly nothing more certain in the Capitol’s life cycle than enactment of the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

Word on the Hill: POW/MIA Recognition Day
Bottomless rosé wines, and the future of health care

Arizona Sen. John McCain was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for five and a half years. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Today is National POW/MIA Recognition Day, which honors missing service members and their families.

Currently in Congress, there are two lawmakers who endured time as prisoners of war during the Vietnam War: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas.

Bipartisan Push for Electoral Security Gets Priority Status
Amendment has support of Schumer, GOP national security leaders

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar wants to make voting security part of the debate on the defense policy bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 9:24 p.m. | A bipartisan effort to enhance election security is among the priorities for Senate Democrats as part of the debate on the annual defense authorization measure.

“The consensus of 17 U.S. Intelligence agencies was that Russia, a foreign adversary, interfered in our elections. Make no mistake: Their success in 2016 will encourage them to try again,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Tuesday. “We have state elections in a couple of months and the 2018 election is a little more than a year away. We must improve our defenses now to ensure we’re prepared.”

Flight 93 Passenger Heroism, in Personal Terms
Vice President Mike Pence says passengers likely saved his life

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, tour the Flight 93 National Memorial at a ceremony marking the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks near Shanksville, Pa., where United Flight 93 crashed with 40 passengers and 4 hijackers aboard on Sept. 11, 2001. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Vice President Mike Pence’s voice cracked as he spoke Monday in the Pennsylvania field where United Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001. The only reason he was standing there, he said, was because of a group of passengers on board the airliner 16 years ago.

The typically upbeat former member of the House Republican leadership grew noticeably emotional at a 9/11 remembrance ceremony near Shanksville, at the site where Flight 93 crashed after a group of passengers forced the al-Qaida hijackers to end their mission early.

Opinion: How 9/11 Permanently Changed Us
Biggest transformation — a growing climate of mistrust

Two New York City fire fighters look into a car while another pulls a water hose from a fire truck amid smoke and debris following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. (Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division)

The front page of The New York Times from the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, conjures up a world both familiar and distant. The lead story highlights talk of tax cuts on Capitol Hill while a major feature conveys the worries of public school officials that dress codes are being flouted: “The days when torn jeans tested the limits are now a fond memory.”

In this era before iPhones and Androids, the Times headlined a page-one article about Paula Zahn’s new CNN contract: “In a Nation of Early Risers, Morning TV Is a Hot Market.” The Times front page also brooded about continuing threats like nuclear smuggling in Asia and the depressing verities of foreign policy: “Mideast Still Roiling.”

Drama Awaits Senate Debate on Pentagon Policy
No lack of substantive, high-profile issues for defense authorization measure

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., left, and ranking member Jack Reed, D-R.I., will manage a sprawling floor debate on the Pentagon policy bill starting this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate will take up the massive Pentagon policy bill this week, providing a stage for high-profile debate on simmering national security issues ranging from transgender troops to the growing North Korea nuclear threat.

Senators have already filed hundreds of amendments to the defense bill, among them language to allow transgender people to serve openly in the military, establish a North Korea strategy, limit arms sales to U.S. allies, define U.S. objectives in Afghanistan and block the creation of a new military service.

White House Brushes Off Calls for Updated Authorization of Military Force
Despite bipartisan interest in new AUMF, administration says it’s not happening

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Thursday called for a new authorization for use of military force, before the White House said it did not support such a measure. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Despite calls from members of both parties, President Donald Trump will not propose an updated authorization for use of military force measure to cover ongoing U.S. operations against groups such as al-Qaida, the Islamic State and others, a White House National Security Council official said Thursday.

White House officials have concluded they have ample legal authorities to continue conducting such military missions.

Senators Facing Another Crush of Nominations
Many new nominees will be lining up for consideration

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will need to juggle high-profile legislation on the floor with judicial and executive confirmation votes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

September’s packed legislative calendar means the focus will be on how to raise the debt ceiling and keep the government funded, but President Donald Trump still has numerous vacant positions across his administration. 

Trump tweeted last week that he wasn’t looking to fill all of those positions. But no shortage of posts requiring Senate confirmation still need to be filled, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has kept up work on that front.

Opinion: Puncturing the Happy-Talk Illusion of a Balanced Budget
A little honesty might help Democrats and Republicans

Voters should not fall for congressional rhetoric on the need to balance the federal budget, Shapiro writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The return of Congress means that the next few months will be boom times for Capitol Hill speechwriters as they tap into a gusher of cliches about the need to balance the federal budget.

From droning floor speeches to syncopated press conferences, the Hill will be alive with apocalyptic rhetoric as the national debt approaches $20 trillion.