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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
AFGHANISTAN – PROTESTS AND KABUL
Taliban fighters in Jalalabad have fired into a crowd and beat protesters during an outpouring of public anger at their rule, resulting in at least three people being killed and more than a dozen injured. Reuters reporting.
The Taliban have responded to public protests in Kabul against their rule with force. In Kabul “hundreds of protesters marched through the main shopping street, whistling, shouting and bearing large flags of the Afghan Republic. Taliban fighters fired in the air to break up the crowd, but the protesters did not disperse, video aired by local news media outlets showed. When that failed, the fighters resorted to violence. It was unclear how many people were injured or whether anyone was killed,” the New York Times reports.
There are signs that Kabul is beginning to return to some semblance of normalcy with the traffic restarting, some clinics, small markets and shops opening. Scott Neuman reports for NPR.
People have started to return to Kabul’s streets and shops have started to reopen, however far fewer women are venturing onto the streets now compared to a few days ago. Clarissa Ward, Brent Swails and Ivana Kottasová report for CNN.
AFGHANISTAN – TALIBAN PRESS CONFERENCE
The Taliban has held its first official news conference in Kabul following its takeover of Afghanistan, declaring that it wishes peaceful relations with other countries. The Taliban said that they seek no “revenge” on opponents and that everyone will be “forgiven,” during the press conference. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters that the group wanted to “congratulate the [Afghan] nation” for its victory and that it did not seek “internal or external enemies.” “There were a series of assurances apparently aimed at the international community, including a promise to end the narcotics trade from Afghanistan and to prevent the country being used as a base by terrorist groups to attack other countries,” Peter Beaumont reports for the Guardian.
During the Press conference, Mujahid also attempted to ease fears among Afghans, promising an amnesty for former members of the security forces and those who worked with foreign powers, BBC News reports.
Afghan women will have rights “within the framework of Islamic law,” the Taliban said during the press conference yesterday. Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson, said that women would be free to work in Afghanistan but gave little detail about other rules and restrictions. “We are going to allow women to work and study within our frameworks,” he said. “Women are going to be very active within our society.” BBC News reports.
The Taliban spokesperson also said that the U.S., and the international community, “will not be harmed from” Afghan soil. “While the Taliban have made similar promises in the past, Mujahid’s remarks were a clear indication of the movement’s efforts to reach out to the international community and encourage international engagement with the group,” Zeerak Khurram, Saphora Smith, Yuliya Talmazan and Gabe Joselow report for NBC News.
The transcript of the conference is available on Al Jazeera.
AFGHANISTAN – TALIBAN GOVERNMENT
The Taliban is preparing to govern Afghanistan, as exiled Taliban leaders return to the country. Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson who appeared in the group’s first press conference since taking Kabul, said yesterday that preparations were under way to form a government and insisted its new government would be more moderate than its brutal reign in the 1990. The Financial Times reports.
The Taliban’s top political leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, and the man likely to be Afghanistan’s next leader arrived in Afghanistan yesterday after two decades. Ghani arrived in the southern city of Kandahar from Qatar, where he has lived since he was released from prison in Pakistan in 2017 at the request of U.S. and Afghan leaders. After the Taliban took over Kabul this week, Baradar issued a video statement, removing his glasses and looking at the camera: “now comes the test,” he said, “Now it’s about how we serve and secure our people and ensure their future.” “The way Baradar might govern — and even his ability to consolidate power in Kabul — is impossible to predict. Even as he and other Taliban leaders have articulated a more liberal vision of the state in recent days, signs of the Taliban’s repressive techniques have re-emerged,” Kevin Sieff and Joshua Partlow report for the Washington Post.
Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai has met for talks with Anas Haqqa, a Taliban commander and senior leader of the Haqqani Network militant group, an important faction of the Taliban, a Taliban official has said today, amid efforts by the Taliban to set up a government. The Haqqani Network is based on the border with Pakistan and has been accused over recent years of some of the most deadly militant attacks in Afghanistan. “Karzai was accompanied by the old government’s main peace envoy, Abdullah Abdullah, in the meeting, said the Taliban official, who declined to be identified. He gave no more details,” Reuters reports.
The leaders of the Taliban will show themselves to the world and will not stay in “shadow of secrecy,” a Taliban official has said today. The approach is contrast to the past 20 years, when the Taliban’s leaders have lived largely in secret. The senior Taliban official also told Reuters that “Taliban members had been ordered not to celebrate their recent sweep of the country, which brought them to the capital, Kabul, on Sunday, and added that civilians should hand over weapons and ammunition,” Reuters reports.
AFGHANISTAN – INTELLIGENCE ASSESSMENTS AMD TERROR THREATS
Classified intelligence assessments over the summer painted an increasingly grim picture of a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and warned of a rapid collapse of the Afghan military, even as President Biden and his advisers continued to publicly say that a collapse was unlikely to happen quickly. According to current and former U.S. government officials, by July many intelligence reports were very pessimistic and warned that the Afghan government was unprepared for a Taliban assault, including on Kabul. The reports “raise questions about why Biden administration officials, and military planners in Afghanistan, seemed ill-prepared to deal with the Taliban’s final push into Kabul,” Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes and Adam Goldman report for the New York Times.
The CIA’s intelligence assessments in recent weeks have warned of the potential of a rapid and total collapse of the Afghan military and government, current and former U.S. officials have said. “In the end, the CIA’s description of what a worst-case scenario could look like “was pretty close to what happened,” one former official briefed on the matter said. The White House won’t confirm whether Biden ever received such a dire forecast from his national security team. The president himself appeared to dispute a month ago that intelligence suggested the increasing likelihood that the Afghan military would fold,” Ken Dilanian, Mike Memoli, Courtney Kube and Josh Lederman report for NBC News.
The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban has raised fears that terrorist groups capable of threatening the U.S. will thrive in Afghanistan anew amid the chaos. U.S. military officials are reassessing their previous estimate that al Qaeda could reconstitute as a threat in two years. The Biden administration is insisting that the U.S. will continue to implement counterterrorism over-the-horizon and to hold the Taliban accountable to not allow al Qaeda a safe haven. However, U.S. officials and lawmakers are warning that a terrorist resurgence could occur with ties between the Taliban and al Qaeda remaining close. Rebecca Kheel and Rebecca Beitsch report for The Hill.
Western intelligence and defense officials are warning that the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan could mean that the country risks becoming a magnet for foreign fighters and terrorist groups, including al Qaeda. “We have not seen a break with the Taliban. So, if the Taliban does have success they’re likely to have al-Qaeda operating with them,” a U.S. official has said. Andrew England, Helen Warrell, Katrina Manson and Amy Kazmin report for the Financial Times.
AFGHANISTAN – ACCESS TO KABUL AIRPORT
Seventeen people were injured today in a stampede at a gate to Kabul airport, a NATO security official has said. Reuters reporting.
The Taliban are strengthening their control over Kabul with access to Kabul airport remaining near-impossible for the thousands of Afghans seeking to leave the country. “The U.S. said it had completed the evacuation of its embassy staff, leaving only a small contingent to process other departures from the country. However, many thousands of Afghans who had worked for Western embassies and organizations remained stranded and unable to reach the airport for evacuation flights, as the Taliban erected checkpoints at the entrances to the airport, whipping and beating Afghans who attempted to cross,” Yaroslav Trofimov, Saeed Shah and Andrew Restuccia report for the Wall Street Journal.
American citizens in Afghanistan have been told that the U.S. government “cannot guarantee” their security as they attempted to make their way to Kabul’s international airport. The Financial Times reports.
The Taliban have agreed to allow “safe passage” from Afghanistan for civilians struggling to join a U.S.-directed airlift from the capital, President Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said yesterday. Sullivan acknowledged reports that some people trying to reach the airport were encountering resistance “being turned away or pushed back or even beaten” but he insisted that “very large numbers” were reaching the airport and the problem of the others was being taken up with the Taliban. Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby disclosed that U.S. officers were speaking with Taliban commanders “multiple times a day” about avoiding conflict at Kabul airport. However, “Kirby would not discuss details of the Taliban arrangement, and Sullivan said the question of how much time the Taliban will give the evacuation was still being negotiated,” Robert Burns, Ellen Knickmeyer and Zeke Miller report for AP.
Reports are emerging of the Taliban beating and whipping Afghans, especially women and children, seeking to flee Kabul. The U.S. has said that the Taliban has committed to “safe passage” for people who want to reach Kabul airport. “But reports from the Afghan capital say there has been violence at checkpoints on Airport Road, including photographs of a woman and a child with head injuries after reportedly being beaten and whipped after trying to cross a checkpoint,” Ben Doherty and Warren Murray report for the Guardian.
Despite Kabul airport being open for evacuations, many seeking to leave the country have not been able to get past Taliban checkpoints. “The Taliban erected checkpoints throughout the capital and near the airport’s entrance, beating some Afghans who attempted to cross and intimidating others from leaving, according to reports and an eyewitness account,” Rachel Pannett and Jennifer Hassan report for the Washington Post.
The U.S. has warned the Taliban that interference with evacuation efforts out of Afghanistan would be met with “overwhelming force,” Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, has said. McKenzie said he met with Taliban senior leaders in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday and “cautioned them against interference in our evacuation, and made it clear to them that any attack would be met with overwhelming force in the defense of our forces.” Alex Gangitano reports for The Hill.
India has evacuated about 150 diplomats and nationals from Afghanistan, who were escorted to Kabul’s airport by the Taliban. The embassy’s decision to ask the Taliban to shepherd the Indians out was made following refusals from the Taliban to allow a group of Indian diplomats and nationals to leave the green zone. Al Jazeera reports.
AFGHANISTAN – EVACUATING U.S. AND ALLY CITIZENS AND AFGHANS
Kabul’s airport has been secured by U.S., U.K. and other western forces allowing evacuation flights to continue. V-Adm Ben Key, the U.K commander of joint operations, said yesterday that there was now “considerably greater stability” on the ground, ending the “distressing scenes” of Monday when some desperate Afghans clung to military aircraft as they took off. Dan Sabbagh reports for the Guardian.
The Pentagon is aiming to accelerate evacuation flights out of Afghanistan following the chaos at Kabul airport on Monday promoted the military to halt flights until the airfield could be secured. The U.S. military was planning to ramp up to one flight out of Kabul per hour, a pace that could evacuate up to 5,000 to 9,000 people per day, Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor of the Joint Staff said at a Pentagon briefing Tuesday. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
Over 2,200 diplomats and other civilians have so far been evacuated on military flights out of Kabul, a Western security official in the Afghan capital has said today. “There was no clarity yet on when civilian flights will resume from Kabul, the official said,” Reuters reports.
The U.S. military evacuated about 1,100 Americans, permanent residents of the United States, and their families from Afghanistan on Tuesday, a White House official has said. Reuters reporting.
Up to 15,000 Americans remain in Afghanistan after Taliban takeover, officials from President Biden’s administration have told Senate staffers, two aides have said. Julie Tsirkin, Frank Thorp V and Phil Helsel report for NBC News.
Human remains were found in the wheel well of a U.S. military plane hours after it left Kabul, the U.S. Air Force said yesterday. “Faced with a rapidly deteriorating security situation around the aircraft, the C-17 crew decided to depart the airfield as quickly as possible,” an Air Force statement said. “In addition to videos seen online and in press reports, human remains were discovered in the wheel well of the C-17 after it landed at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar,” the statement said. David K. Li and Courtney Kube report for NBC News.
The Office of Special Investigations of the U.S. Air Force is reviewing the deaths of people who may have fallen from a plane as it was leaving Kabul airport. “The Air Force did not say how many people died. It said human remains were found in the plane’s wheel well after it landed at al-Udeid Air Base in the Gulf state of Qatar. Videos of the incident, including images of people falling from the aircraft as it took off, were widely viewed on social media,” AP reports.
Twenty-five French nationals and 184 Afghans were evacuated from Afghanistan overnight and have just landed in Abu Dhabi, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said today. Reuters reporting.
The U.K. is managing to remove around 1,000 people a day from Afghanistan U.K. interior minister Priti Patel has said today. “We’re still bringing out British nationals… and those Afghan nationals who are part of our locally employed scheme,” she added. Reuters reporting.
Dutch evacuation efforts in Afghanistan were unsuccessful yesterday evening as chaos outside Kabul airport made it impossible to get eligible people on a plane, Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag has said. The Netherlands aims to get up to 1,000 local embassy workers, translators and their families out of the country. “U.S. armed forces securing the airport did not allow any Afghans to enter the gates even if they had the right credentials, and the plane was only on the ground in Kabul for about half an hour, Kaag said,” Reuters reports.
The Netherlands managed to get 35 of its citizens out of Afghanistan today, Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld has said. Reuters reports.
The first Lufthansa plane with Afghanistan evacuees has landed in Germany. The plan had about 130 people onboard. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet has approved the deployment of up to 600 soldiers in Afghanistan to help with the evacuation, a government official said. Reuters reporting.
AFGHANISTAN – REFUGEES AND VISAS
Thousands of Afghan civilians who risked their lives to assist the U.S. military in Afghanistan, many of them working as interpreters alongside American soldiers in combat, are trapped in Afghanistan. Although many and their families qualify for the U.S. special immigrant visas, and 2,000 such people such people whose cases already had been approved have arrived in the United States, “thousands are stuck in a years long backlog that is only ballooning as the situation on the ground deteriorates after the withdrawal of American troops,” Miriam Jordan reports for the New York Times.
Biden has authorized $500 million in additional funds for relocating Afghan refugees, including applicants for Special Immigrant Visas. Alex Gangitano reports for The Hill.
The U.K. has announced plans to resettle 20,000 refugees form Afghanistan. Up to 5,000 Afghan refugees are expected to be settled in the first year of the new refugee plan, which will give priority to women, girls and minorities considered ‘most at risk’ under Taliban rule. Al Jazeera reports.
Uganda has said that it has agreed to a request from the U.S. to take in temporarily 2,000 refugees from Afghanistan. “The deal was agreed following a request from the US government, Refugee Minister Esther Anyakun told the BBC. The first group of 500 Afghans were expected to arrive on Tuesday, but officials now say discussions about the arrangements are still ongoing,” Patience Atuhaire reports for BBC News reports.
AFGHANISTAN – TALIBAN ASSURANCES
President Biden’s administration has tentatively accepted the assurances given by the Taliban but have insisted that it is interested in deeds and not just words. “Ultimately, it’s going to be up to the Taliban to show the rest of the world who they are and how they intend to proceed,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters. “The track record has not been good, but it’s premature to address that question at this point.” Karen DeYoung and Dan Lamothe report for the Washington Post.
The Taliban’s violent history is clouding their recent promises of peace in Afghanistan. “We don’t want Afghanistan to be a battlefield anymore — from today onward, war is over,” said Mujahid at the news conference yesterday. “Mujahid’s words, delivered in a restrained tone, were a glimpse into a Taliban desire to portray themselves as ready to join the international mainstream. But much of the world is wary of their reassurances,” Mujib Mashal and Richard Pérez-Peña report for the New York Times.
Analysis of whether the claims of greater tolerance from the Taliban will hold up, along with information on the biographies of the Taliban leaders, is provided by Adam Nossiter, Carlotta Gall and Julian E. Barnes for the New York Times. There have been some “positive signs,” from the Taliban they report, “a lower-ranking member of their hierarchy gave an interview to a female television journalist Tuesday, and Reporters Without Borders won a vague promise that the Taliban would respect freedom of the press. And after moving into Kabul, the Taliban leadership did not immediately announce the formation of a new government, a sign to some observers that they remain open to some form of “inclusive” governance, as Mr. Mujahid said.” However, some argue that “it is likely to be some time before these matters are settled.”
Many Afghans are skeptical and fearful of what their future holds in Afghanistan. Afghan women are still visible on TV screens and the Taliban has given some limited assurances that their rights will be protected, with Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen saying that the group will respect the rights of women and minorities “as per Afghan norms and Islamic values.” However, many women do not believe the assurances and are scared that their rights, including to work and get an education, will be lost under Taliban rule. Alexandra Fouché reports for BBC News.
The U.K.’s army chief, Nick Carter, has said today that the Taliban could be different this time and the world should give the Taliban the space to form a new government in Afghanistan. “We have to be patient, we have to hold our nerve and we have to give them the space to form a government and we have to give them the space to show their credentials,” Carter told reporters. “It may be that this Taliban is a different Taliban to the one that people remember from the 1990s.” Reuters reports.
AFGHANISTAN – BIDEN AND HIS ADMINISTRATION
President Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke on the phone yesterday about the security situation in Afghanistan and agreed to hold a virtual meeting with other allied Group of Seven leaders next week. Johnson is the first foreign counterpart Biden has spoken to since the Taliban took the capital city of Kabul on Sunday. Biden and Johnson “discussed the need for continued close coordination among allies and democratic partners on Afghanistan policy going forward, including ways the global community can provide further humanitarian assistance and support for refugees and other vulnerable Afghans,” the White House said, adding that the two leaders agreed to hold a virtual Group of Seven meeting next week “to discuss a common strategy and approach.” Alex Gangitano reports for The Hill.
Biden has yet to speak with his foreign counterparts since the Taliban took the Afghanistan capital of Kabul, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said yesterday. Biden spoke with the U.K. Prime Minister yesterday afternoon. “He has not yet spoken with any other world leaders,” Sullivan said during a briefing with reporters, noting that he and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have held regular calls with their own counterparts. Brett Samuels reports for The Hill.
Biden’s administration is facing increasing questions from lawmakers on why it did not adequately prepare for the disarray that ensued after Kabul fell. “Yes, there were chaotic scenes yesterday,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters as he argued the administration planned for “all contingencies.” However “the Biden administration has come under sharp criticism from across the political spectrum for the chaos that has ensued as people try to evacuate Afghanistan,” Rebecca Kheel and Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
Biden’s team wasted precious time on evacuating Afghans who assisted the U.S., U.S. officials and people familiar with the matter have said. This includes the Pentagon not preparing a list of all Afghans who had worked with the U.S. during the 20-year war and officials insisting that “Kabul wouldn’t fall for six to 12 months, so they had plenty of time to hire more staff and position consular officers to the capital to process the 20,000-person backlog,” Alexander Ward reports for POLITICO.
Three Democrat-led Senate committees are vowing to investigate the Biden administration’s bungled withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, as officials scramble to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies. “Statements from the leaders of the Senate’s Intelligence, Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees reflect the widespread bipartisan anger over what is widely perceived as a chaotic and poorly planned exit from America’s longest war,” Andrew Desidero reports for POLITICO.
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) has rebuked Biden’s claim that some Afghans weren’t evacuated from the country sooner because they didn’t want to leave as “utter BS,” at a press conference on Tuesday. “don’t tell me that Afghans don’t want to leave when there’s been a backlog of Special Immigrant Visa applications for over a decade,” Moulton said. Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
Biden officials have acknowledged the chaotic images that have surfaced as Afghan civilians and American personnel scramble to exit from Afghanistan, while still defending the U.S. military’s withdrawal from the country as the correct choice. Both White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and White House press secretary Jen Psaki also “sidestepped questions about whether U.S. forces would stay in Afghanistan beyond the Aug. 31 deadline if there were still Americans and at-risk Afghans that need to be evacuated,” Brett Samuels ,Morgan Chalfant and Alex Gangitano report for The Hill.
The Biden administration is embroiled in an internal blame shifting game amid the chaos in Afghanistan, including questing why the Government did not act sooner to withdraw U.S. citizens and Afghans who have helped the U.S. Natasha Bertrand, Kylie Atwood, Oren Liebermann and Nicole Gaouette report for CNN.
Biden gave the order last Thursday to send U.S. troops into Afghanistan as it became clear that the Taliban were overrunning Afghan government forces on their way to taking Kabul, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters yesterday. “Sullivan said the president met with his national security team the night of Aug. 11, posing the question ‘as to whether we had to flow more forces in’ as well as to draw down personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and secure the evacuation; Biden ordered the action the following morning,” Brian Naylor reports for NPR.
AFGHANISTAN – OTHER U.S. RELATED DEVELOPMENTS
President Biden’s administration last week cancelled bulk shipments of U.S. dollars which were intended for Afghanistan as part of a continuing scramble to keep hundreds of millions of dollars out of the Taliban’s hands, according to people familiar with the matter. “The U.S. is also blocking Taliban access to government accounts managed by the Federal Reserve and other U.S. banks and working to prevent the group’s access to nearly half-billion dollars-worth of reserves at the International Monetary Fund, according to those people,” Kate Davidson and Ian Talley report for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. has frozen nearly $9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank, as well as blocking shipments of U.S. dollars to Afghanistan. Da Afghan Bank has $9.5 billion in assets, a sizeable portion of which is in accounts with the New York Federal Reserve and U.S.-based financial institutions. An administration official has said “that any central bank assets that the Afghan government has in the U.S. will not be available to the Taliban, which remains on the Treasury Department’s sanctions designation list,” Saleha Mohsin reports for Bloomberg.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) concluded that while the U.S.’s reconstruction mission in Afghanistan “yielded some success,” it was “marked by too many failures,” according to a report the watchdog released Monday. The watchdog identified seven “key lessons” learned from the U.S.’s 20-year involvement in Afghanistan and “said the U.S. ‘continuously struggled’ to establish and execute a ‘coherent strategy’ for what it aimed to achieve through its military intervention. It specifically said the division of responsibilities among U.S. agencies failed to ‘always take into account each agency’s strengths and weaknesses,’ and that the ‘poor division of labor resulted in weak strategy,’” Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
Multiple U.S. federal agencies that operated in Afghanistan and worked with Afghan citizens have been hastily purging their websites, removing articles and photos that could endanger the Afghan civilians who interacted with them and now fear retribution from the Taliban. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price has said that the State Department is advising personnel to search for and remove social media and website content featuring civilians because the safety of Afghan contacts “is of utmost importance” to the government. “State Department policy is to only remove content in exceptional situations like this one. In doing so, department personnel are following records retention requirements,” Price said. Matthew Lee, Ashraf Khalil and Gary Fields report for AP.
The governor of Afghanistan’s central bank, Ajmal Ahmady, has said that it was the Americans’ right to leave, even though most Afghans wished they had stayed, however he wished Afghanistan had been left with more time to plan for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. BBC News reports.
Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper said yesterday that he was concerned at the time that then-President Trump “undermined” the U.S.’s 2020 agreement with the Taliban by pushing for U.S. forces to leave Afghanistan without the Taliban meeting the conditions of the deal. Esper told CNN that “my concern was that President Trump, by continuing to want to withdraw American forces out of Afghanistan, undermined the agreement, which is why in the fall when he was calling for a return of US forces by Christmas, I objected and formally wrote a letter to him, a memo based on recommendations from the military chain of command and my senior civilian leadership that we not go further — that we not reduce below 4,500 troops unless and until conditions were met by the Taliban.” Pau LeBlanc reports for CNN.
AFGHANISTAN –GLOBAL RESPONSE
Pakistan is divided over the success of the Taliban in Afghanistan, with many celebrating, while others fear Taliban victory will embolden Islamic militant organizations operating in Pakistan. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, otherwise known as the Pakistani Taliban, congratulated the Afghan Taliban on their “blessed victory” and “politicians, clerics, military officers and even the prime minister, Imran Khan, were among those in Pakistan celebrating the establishment of Taliban rule,” Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Shah Meer Baloch report for the Guardian.
The U.K. Parliament has been recalled from its summer recess today to discuss the security situation in Afghanistan. In the debate today U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will defend Britain’s response to the Taliban’s rapid takeover of the country as well as the UK’s efforts to withdraw British and Afghan nationals. He is expected to face criticism from senior lawmakers over the U.K.’s role in the crisis. Sebastian Payne and Helen Warrell report for the Financial Times.
U.K. lawmakers across the political spectrum have vented their anger at Johnson and Biden over the collapse of Afghanistan into Taliban hands, “calling it a failure of intelligence, leadership and moral duty,” William James and Elizabeth Piper report for Reuters.
The E.U. will only cooperate with the Taliban if they respect fundamental rights, including those of women, and prevents the use of Afghanistan’s territory by “terrorist organizations,” the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has said following an emergency meeting of E.U. foreign ministers yesterday. Borrell also said that to address “the worsening humanitarian situation in Afghanistan”, the E.U. would continue to provide assistance to the Afghan people. Al Jazeera reports.
Live reporting on the events in the U.K. Parliament is provided by BBC News.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg yesterday said that Afghanistan’s political leaders are to blame for the collapse of the country’s government. “Parts of the Afghan security forces fought bravely. But they were unable to secure the country. Because ultimately, the Afghan political leadership failed to stand up to the Taliban and to achieve the peaceful solution that Afghans desperately wanted.” Stoltenberg said in a meeting of NATO envoys. Alex Gangitano reports for The Hill.
The E.U. has a responsibility to accept Afghan refugees and cannot leave people who worked for the bloc in Afghanistan to “face revenge”, European Parliament President David Sassoli has said today. Sassoli “said refugees arriving from Afghanistan, which is now in the hands of the Taliban, should be distributed evenly among E.U. member states,” Andrius Sytas reports for Reuters.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Kahn, the Emir of Qatar and the head of the U.N. Refugee Agency yesterday evening, her spokesperson has said. Reuters reporting.
The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan “redraws Asia’s geopolitical map and hands China and Russia — two of America’s staunchest strategic rivals — an opportunity to project their power in the wake of Washington’s chaotic withdrawal, analysts in several countries said,” James Kynge, Nastassia Astrasheuskaya and Sun Yu provide analysis for the Financial Times.
Russian officials are moving quickly with a two-pronged approach towards Afghanistan and the Taliban: “cautiously reaching out to the Taliban even as Russia expanded military exercises with Tajikistan along the Afghan border,” Robyn Dixon reports for the Washington Post.
Live updates on Afghanistan and Kabul are provided by BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, the Guardian, New York Times and Washington Post.
Some people charged in relation to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol are staying defiant that they did not do anything wrong, even while pleading guilty. This defiance has led to delays in several recent hearings and a lack of remorse could also have legal consequences and impact on sentencing. Marshall Cohen and Hannah Rabinowitz report for CNN.
The FBI is assisting a Colorado district attorneys office investigation into how voting machine login information wound up on a QAnon-affiliated video. An FBI spokesperson said that the agency is assisting Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein’s office “on the forensic review and analysis of county voting systems to determine if there was a potential federal criminal violation.” The investigation is into photos that appeared to show passwords for Dominion Voting Systems software specific to Mesa County’s voting system that were posted online on a QAnon-affiliated Telegram channel as well as on a conservative blog. Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.
A U.S. science institute is on the verge of achieving a longstanding goal in nuclear fusion research. “The National Ignition Facility uses a powerful laser to heat and compress hydrogen fuel, initiating fusion. An experiment suggests the goal of ‘ignition,’ where the energy released by fusion exceeds that delivered by the laser, is now within touching distance. Harnessing fusion, the process that powers the Sun, could provide a limitless, clean energy source,” Paul Rincon reports for BBC News.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran has accelerated it enrichment of uranium to near weapons-grade, the U.N. atomic watchdog has said in a report. “In May, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran was using one cascade, or cluster, of advanced centrifuges to enrich to up to 60% at its above-ground pilot enrichment plant at Natanz. The IAEA informed member states on Tuesday that Iran was now using a second cascade for that purpose, too… Weapons-grade is around 90% purity,” Francois Murphy reports for Reuters.
The death toll since the military coup in Myanmar has surpassed 1,000 the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, an activist group which has been recording killings by security forces, has said. Reuters reports.
The trial of former Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré and 13 co-accused over the 1987 assassination of his predecessor Thomas Sankara will start on Oct. 11. Compaoré, who was forced into exile in 2014 after he attempted to change the law to extend his rule, currently lives in Ivory Coast and may be tried in absentia. “The trial will be conducted in public, military prosecutors in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou said,” BBC News reports.
China held assault drills near Taiwan yesterday with combat ships and fighter jets. “Chinese military officials said the exercises were meant to carry out ‘joint fire assault and other drills using actual troops,’ in response to U.S.-Taiwan ‘provocation’ that is ‘severely undermining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait’ and ‘severely infringing upon China’s sovereignty,’” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
Hong Kong police have arrested four students on suspicion of “advocating terrorism,” after their student union passed a motion last month mourning the death of a 50-year-old who stabbed a policeman before killing himself. The union leaders have since resigned and apologized for the “inappropriate” motion. Al Jazeera reports.
The coronavirus has infected over 37.0 million and has now killed over 623,300 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 208.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.38 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
The World Health Organization has said that it has identified counterfeit versions of India’s primary vaccine, Covishield, in India and Africa. Zoya Mateen reports for BBC News.
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.