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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
The Taliban has made further gains in a series of districts in northern Afghanistan, with more than a 1,000 Afghan government forces fleeing across the border to Tajikistan. Ishaan Tharoor reports for the Washington Post.
A Taliban spokesperson has said that it is accelerating peace talks with the Afghan government with written peace plans at talks as soon as the next month. “The peace talks and process will be accelerated in the coming days … and they are expected to enter an important stage, naturally it will be about peace plans,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters. Najia Anwari, a spokesperson for Afghanistan’s Ministry for Peace Affairs, confirmed that intra-Afghan talks has resumed but said that it was “difficult to anticipate that the Taliban will provide us with their written document of a peace plan in a month, but let’s be positive.” Reuters reporting.
Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon has mobilized 20,000 military reservists to help strengthen the country’s border with Afghanistan. The move comes after more than 1,000 Afghan security personnel fled across the frontier in response to Taliban militant advances. Rahmon “made a flurry of international calls to discuss the situation with allies in the region, including Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin whose country has a big military presence in Tajikistan. Putin assured Rahmon that Moscow would support the former Soviet republic to stabilize its border with Afghanistan if needed, both directly and through a regional security bloc, the Kremlin said in a statement,” Reuters reports.
Russian military helicopters based in Tajikistan fired air-to-surface missiles during a training exercise on Tuesday, as Moscow said its forces in Tajikistan were fully equipped to help secure the border with Afghanistan. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko repeated Putin’s pledge of support to Tajikistan and was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that “the situation there is rather tense because according to some sources, up to 70% of the Tajik-Afghan border is now controlled by the Taliban,” Olzhas Auyezov reports for Reuters.
Afghan government forces had not expected the Taliban offensive but would “absolutely, definitely” counterattack, Afghan national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib, who was in Moscow on Monday for talks with senior security officials, told Russia’s RIA news agency. “Russia’s foreign ministry said separately on Monday that the Russian consulate in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan was suspending its work because of security concerns, TASS news agency reported,” Reuters reports.
The Taliban have gained a lucrative source of income by taking over the main trade gateway into Tajikistan from Afghanistan and collecting customs revenues. Instead of shutting down after the Taliban took over, the $40 million American-built Sher Khan Bandar crossing, north of the city of Kunduz, has remained in operation, with tacit understandings reached between the Taliban and Tajikistan, according to local traders. Yaroslav Trofimov and Ehsanullah Amiri report for the Wall Street Journal.
The surge of Taliban gains in northern Afghanistan have caused some countries to close their consulates in the region. “The consulates of Turkey and Russia have reportedly closed in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province, and Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city. Iran said it has restricted activities at its consulate in the city. There has been fighting in Balkh province, but the provincial capital has been relatively peaceful. The consulates of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India and Pakistan have reduced their services,” Kathy Gannon reports for AP.
After U.S. troops complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan, the safety of the U.S. embassy in Kabul is a top concern. “A U.S. Embassy spokesperson told The Associated Press that security assessments are frequent these days. Speaking on condition of anonymity in line with briefing rules, she said the embassy is currently down to 1,400 U.S. citizens and about 4,000 staff working inside the compound the size of a small town,” Kathy Gannon reports for AP.
Turkish and U.S. defense ministers will discuss tomorrow plans for Turkey to operate and guard Kabul’s Hamid Karzai airport after the NATO and U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said. Ankara has offered to run and guard the airport and is in talks with the U.S. on financial, political and logistical support. Akar added that there was no final decision on the plan yet. Reuters reporting.
The U.S. left Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan at night without notifying the Afghans, the base’s new Afghan commander has said. General Asadullah Kohistani told the BBC that the U.S. left Bagram at 03:00 local time on Friday, and that the Afghan military found out hours later. Kohistani also told reporters that Afghan forces were expecting the Taliban to attack Bagram and that he was already receiving reports the group was making “movements in rural areas” nearby. BBC News reports.
President Biden is “going to own” the “ugly images” resulting from the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) has said during an interview with Fox News. Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
German authorities have granted 2,400 visas so far to Afghan employees of the German military and their relatives. Germany withdrew the last of its troops from Afghanistan last week. AP reporting.
As U.S. and NATO troops leave Afghanistan, and the Taliban gains ground, Hazaras fear what awaits them. “Hazara leaders fear their lightly policed communities will be especially vulnerable to extremist vengeance. ‘They don’t want us to become educated or successful,’ said Mohammed Alizada, a Hazara member of parliament who lives in Kabul. He said the group’s support for democracy and thirst for knowledge have clashed with the strict religious mores that Taliban, al-Qaeda and Islamic State extremists seek to impose,” Pamela Constable reporting for the Washington Post.
President Biden is expected to temper the U.S.’s use of punitive sanctions following a review by the Biden administration of U.S. sanction policy. The review is expected to be out near the end of the summer and it is anticipated that the Biden administration’s new strategy will aim to “stem sweeping pressure campaigns, avoid collateral economic damage and act jointly with allies rather than unilaterally, according to people involved in the planning process,” Ian Talley reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A facility housing U.S. troops in eastern Syria came under attack from rockets fired from nearby areas on Sunday, according to state media, a spokesperson for U.S.-backed fighters and an opposition war monitor. The U.S. military have denied that there was any attack, “there is no truth to the reports that U.S. forces in Syria were attacked by rockets today,” tweeted coalition spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto. AP reports.
Russia is hoping to start nuclear strategic stability talks with the U.S. this month, Russia’s RIA news agency has quoted Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying. Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed at their summit in Geneva last month to embark on the talks aimed at laying the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures. Reuters reports.
A drone has been shot down near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad Iraq, two security sources have said. There were no casualties caused. Ahmed Rasheed reports for Reuters.
Rockets have hit the Ain al-Asad air base in western Iraq, which hosts U.S. and other international forces, but no casualties were caused, a spokesperson has said. Ahmed Rasheed reports for Reuters.
An agreement between the U.S. and Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear deal is said to be close but there are still significant obstacles. In particular, “reinstating the original terms is not as easy as it sounds, since circumstances have changed so much since the deal was first agreed,” the Economist provides analysis.
The leaders of France, Germany and China in a three way video call have called on all parties involved in the Iran nuclear talks to seize a window of opportunity for agreement, Reuters reporting.
Ukraine will hold a large land military exercise with the U.S., Poland and Lithuania in the western part of Ukraine later this month, the Ukrainian military have said. The planned drills will be the second round of military exercises involving Ukraine and foreign partners in a month. Pavel Polityuk reports for Reuters.
REvil ransomware hackers compromised the software company Kaseya on Friday. According to a notice posted by Kaseya, Kaseya was investigating the root cause of the attack, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said on Twitter that it was “taking action to understand and address the supply-chain #ransomware attack against Kaseya VSA and the multiple #MSPs that employ VSA software.” Celine Castronuovo reports for The Hill.
Between 800 and 1,500 businesses worldwide have been affected by the ransomware attack on Kaseya, its chief executive has said. Kaseya provides software tools to IT outsourcing shops, which typically handle back-office work for other companies too small or modestly resourced to have their own tech departments. This meant that the number of victims of the attack grew quickly. “Although most of those affected have been small concerns – like dentists’ offices or accountants – the disruption has been felt more keenly in Sweden, where hundreds of supermarkets had to close because their cash registers were inoperative, or New Zealand, where schools and kindergartens were knocked offline,” Al Jazeera reports.
The cyber attackers are now demanding $70 million in bitcoin to unlock more than a million individual devices which they say they have locked. “Instead of locking an individual organization, as ransomware gangs usually do, REvil locked each victim computer as a standalone target and initially asked for $45,000 to unlock each one,” Kevin Collier reports for NBC News.
The military is bracing itself for justice reform, with Joint Chiefs of Staff and the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee arguing that going too far with military justice reform could have detrimental effects on “good order and discipline.” It appears likely that change will come to the military justice system to tackle sexual assault, with President Biden having endorsed taking the decision to prosecute sexual assault and related crimes out of the military chain of command. However, “dozens of lawmakers, led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), want to take almost all major crimes out of the chain of command, saying only changing how sex crimes are prosecuted could create a two-tiered justice system,” Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
Several questions remain unanswered on the newly formed select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, including whether Republicans will participate in the committee, if former President Trump will be called to testify and if the committee will have the power to subpoena lawmakers. Mike Lillis provides analysis of the key questions surrounding the committee for The Hill.
The Jan. 6 select committee will “have a broad mandate to examine the facts, circumstances and causes of the Capitol attack,” Hug Lowell provides analysis of what the committee is likely to investigate for the Guardian.
Five key things to know about the Trump Organization ad Allen Weisselberg indictment with tax-related crimes are provided by Naomi Jagoda reporting for The Hill.
Just Security have two recent pieces on the impact of the Trump Organization and Weisselberg indictment: Daniel Shaviro discusses why the indictment is not a “fringe benefits” case and Martin J. Sheil provides analysis of Weisselberg’s post-indictment strategic considerations.
CHINA AND HONG KONG
Hong Kong authorities have said that they have arrested nine people for an alleged plot to bomb train stations, court buildings and tunnels organized by advocates for the region’s independence from China. Those arrested are between the ages of 15 and 29, including six high school students, a high school employee and a university staff member. Steve Li, the senior superintendent of the police’s National Security Department, said that the plans were “shocking” as they seemed “to target a lot of people,” adding that the alleged plot aimed to “maximize damage to society.” Joshua Berlinger and Lauren Lau report for CNN.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has called for teenagers to be monitored following the foiling of the bomb plot. Lam said that “ideologies” pose risks to national security and urged parents, teachers and religious leaders to observe the behavior of teenagers and report those who break the law to the authorities. Sharon Abratique and Jessie Pang report for Reuters.
The Asia Internet Coalition, which includes Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Apple, have wanted that tech companies could stop offering services in Hong Kong if the territory continues with its plans to amend privacy laws that could see individuals hit with “severe sanctions.” The warning came in a letter from June 25 to the territory’s privacy commissioner for personal data, Ada Chung Lai-ling. The Guardian reports.
China is widening its crackdown on tech companies and has ordered the removal of Didi Chuxing, China’s ride-hailing app equivalent of Uber, from domestic app stores due to cybersecurity concerns. China’s cyberspace regulator send in a statement that Didi will remain banned until further notice as it was found to have “illegally collected and used users’ personal information” in a “grave violation of law and regulation.” The ban comes just days after Didi’s landmark U.S. listing. Lyric Li and Pei Lin Wu report for the Washington Post.
Didi shares slumped as much as 25% on the U.S. pre-market trade today, following the crackdown by the Chinese regulator. Scott Murdoch and Thyagaraju Adinarayan report for Reuters.
China is watching Afghanistan as the U.S. withdraws and is prepared to co-operate with the Taliban to prevent chaos across its border, diplomats say. China has held talks with the Taliban and although discussions have been kept secret government officials, diplomats and analysis have said that it is expected that China’s approach will be “to try to rebuild Afghanistan’s shattered infrastructure in co-operation with the Taliban by channeling funds through Pakistan, one of Beijing’s firmest allies in the region,” Stephanie Findlay, Christian Shepherd and James Kynge report for the Financial Times.
A U.S. lawyer has been sentenced to prison in Hong Kong for assaulting a plain clothes police officer in 2019 during pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. “The former compliance director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch was on his way to dinner in late 2019 when he saw a man hitting a teenager with a baton and stopped to intervene. The assailant turned out to be an off-duty policeman. An altercation between the man, identified later as Yu Shu-sang, and other bystanders ensued,” Theodora Yu reports for the Washington Post.
Russia has backed the consensus agreed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to tackle the crisis in Myanmar and has conveyed similar messages to the country’s military leadership, its foreign minister has said. Fransiska Nangoy and Stanley Widianto report for Reuters.
A new task force has been launched to investigate evidence of human rights violations in Myanmar, more than five months after the military ousted the civilian government. “The British-government funded project, Myanmar Witness, said it would be sharing information with the United Nations’ Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, which is probing suspected international crimes in Myanmar,” Reuters reports.
The military in Myanmar have declared war on health care, including doctors and medics themselves who were early and fierce opponents of the military takeover in February this year. “Security forces are arresting, attacking and killing medical workers, dubbing them enemies of the state. With medics driven underground amid a global pandemic, the country’s already fragile healthcare system is crumbling,” Kristen Gelineau and Victoria Milko report for AP.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Around 150 students have been kidnapped by armed gunmen from a boarding school in Nigeria’s northwestern Kaduna state. The attackers opened fire and overpowered security guards after storming the high school. Nigerian police have said that they are in pursuit along with military personnel of the attackers and abducted children. “The attack on the Bethel Baptist High School is the 10th mass school kidnapping since December in northwest Nigeria, which authorities have attributed to armed bandits seeking ransom payments,” Ardo Hazzad and Garba Muhammad report for Reuters.
Belarus has witnessed an unprecedented human rights crisis and a “full-scale assault” against civil society over the past year, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Belarus has said in her annual report. “The Belarusian authorities have launched a full-scale assault against civil society, curtailing a broad spectrum of rights and freedoms, targeting people from all walks of life, while systematically persecuting human rights defenders, journalists, media workers and lawyers in particular,” Anaïs Marin told the U.N. Security Council. UN News Centre reports.
Marin told Belarus on Monday to immediately free some 530 jailed people whom rights groups consider “political prisoners,” and the U.S. has hinted at further sanctions against Belarus. Benjamin Moeling, the U.S. delegate in Geneva said that “such contempt for international norms cannot go unanswered,” and that the U.S. “will consider further actions as necessary.” Reuters reporting.
Tigray rebel forces are preparing to fight paramilitaries from the neighboring province of Amhara in Ethiopia, following the withdrawal of Ethiopian federal troops from the region. Jason Burke reports for the Guardian.
Pakistan has accused India of orchestrating the car bombing in Lahore in June. Pakistan’s national security advisor said on Sunday that an investigation has shown that the car bombing, which took place outside the residence of anti-India militant leader Hafiz Saeed, was organized by an Indian intelligence operative, saying that Pakistan will continue its efforts to expose India’s sponsorship of such attacks internationally. Zarah Khan reports for AP.
German police have arrested more than 750 people and seized a large haul of weapons and drugs after infiltrating EncroChat, a communications service used by criminals. “French and Dutch investigators infiltrated the platform, which had 60,000 users worldwide, last year. They made a number of arrests and shared the data via Europol, allowing authorities elsewhere to monitor criminals’ messages and movements,” Reuters reports.
Israel’s New Government has failed to extend a contentious citizenship law which bars Palestinians from the occupied West Bank or Gaza who marry Israelis from being granted citizenship rights. Following a debate that lasted through the night the vote on the extension was tied 59 to 59; the first big defeat for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s new government. The legislation is now due to expire at the end of today and “thousands of Palestinians previously unable to claim citizenship rights may now be able to do so,” BBC News reports.
Government forces and allied tribesmen, backed by a Saudi Arabia-led coalition, have reclaimed swaths of territory in central Yemen, Yemen’s Information Minister Moammar al-Iryani has said. Heavy fighting between Yemen’s government forces and Houthi rebels in the central Bayda officials raged over the weekend, and Houthi officials said the rebels suffered heavy losses in the fighting. Ahmed Al-Ha reports for AP.
Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboun has ordered the release of 18 young people imprisoned for their roles in the Hirak protest movement, and suggested that more releases will come, in a gesture marking the 59th year since the end of colonial rule in Algeria. AP reports.
Jordan’s security court has set next Monday for when it will hand down its verdict in the trial of a former royal confidant who is accused of destabilizing the monarchy, an official source has said. Reuters reports.
Mexican authorities have arrested a former top federal police official on charges of torture nearly a decade ago. Former Federal Police commander Luis Cardenas Palomino was considered the right-hand man of former security secretary Genaro García Luna who is now being held on drug trafficking charges in the United States. “U.S. prosecutors have also accused Cardenas Palomino of accepting millions in bribes from the Sinaloa cartel, once run by imprisoned drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman. It was not clear if Mexico would consider extraditing Cardenas Palomino,” AP reporting.
The coronavirus has infected over 33.70 million and now killed over 605,500 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 184.15 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.95 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.
A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.
Latest updates on the pandemic at the Guardian.