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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 – U.S. STRIKES
The U.S. carried out at least two airstrike operations against suspected ISIS-K members over the weekend.
At least 10 civilians from one family, the majority children, were killed by a U.S. drone strike on Sunday targeting a vehicle of “multiple” suicide bombers in Kabul’s densely populated Khaje Bughra neighborhood. The dead were all from a single extended family and were getting out of a car in their driveway when the strike hit a nearby vehicle, said Abdul Matin Azizi, a neighbor who witnessed the attack. Susannah George reports for the Washington Post. CNN reports that six children were killed in the strike. Laura Smith-Spark, Saskya Vandoorne, Oren Liebermann, Nick Paton Walsh and Sandi Sidhu report for CNN.
The “over-the-horizon” airstrike was in response to an “imminent” threat to the international airport, U.S. Navy Capt. Bill Urban said in a statement. Urban said, “Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material,” and that there were no reported civilian casualties, but that U.S. Central Command was investigating. AP reports.
President Biden has given the Pentagon the “green light” to strike any targets affiliated with ISIS-K, without first seeking White House approval, according to three U.S. officials. Top Pentagon leaders already had this authority, but Biden reaffirmed it in instructions to the military on Friday, one of the officials said, adding Biden’s “guidance is to just do it.” Lara Seligman reports for POLITICO.
The U.S. also retaliated Saturday with an “over-the-horizon” strike that killed what Pentagon officials are calling two “ISIS-K planners and facilitators” in Jalalabad, the eastern Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan, though they refused to confirm whether those individuals had any role in orchestrating the Kabul airport attack. John Hudson, Karoun Demirjian and Dan Lamothe report for the Washington Post.
Biden authorized Saturday’s drone strike and it was ordered by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a defense official said. “It was a single mission to get these targets and as the assessments and information flowed over time, we were able to recognize that another was killed as well and one wounded,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a Defense Department briefing Saturday. “They were ISIS-K planners and facilitators and that’s enough reason there alone. I won’t speak to the details of these individuals and what their specific roles might be,” Kirby said. He added: “We have the ability and the means to carry over the horizon counterterrorism capabilities and we’re going to defend ourselves.’’ AP reporting.
The ISIS-K targets killed were supposedly “high-profile,” and another member terrorist was wounded, Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor confirmed in a Pentagon press briefing. There were no civilian casualties, he said. One of the targets was involved in running weapons and bombs into Kabul, while the other was an ISIS-K associate, two of the officials said earlier. Rema Rahman reports for The Hill.
The Pentagon used a special Hellfire missile that packs no explosives to strike Islamic State militants on Saturday, according to two U.S. officials, carried out by a Reaper drone flown from the Persian Gulf region. “The missile used by the U.S. in the airstrike, called an R9X, is inert. Instead of exploding, the weapon ejects a halo of six large blades stowed inside the skin of the missile, which deploy at the last minute to shred the target of the strike, allowing military commanders to pinpoint their target and reduce the possibility for civilian casualties,” report Gordon Lubold and Warren P. Strobel for the Wall Street Journal.
AFGHANISTAN – ROCKETS/EXPLOSIONS IN KABUL
Several rockets were fired at Kabul airport on Monday, with at least one intercepted by the airport’s missile defense system. The White House confirmed that President Biden had been briefed and that he “reconfirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritize doing whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground.” “Witnesses said the rockets were launched from a car and were aimed towards the airport on Monday morning. It appears Salim Karwan, a neighborhood adjacent to the airport, was hit in one of the blasts. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack,” The Guardian reports.
There were initially reports on Sunday that there was at least one rocket attack in Kabul’s Khaje Bughra neighborhood, northwest of the airport, killing a child, and potentially causing a second blast in a nearby house; however, AP later reported this as incorrect, making clear that the presumed rocket was in fact the U.S.’s airstrike in the region, although v video by a Kurdistan24 staffer, apparently showing the moment a rocket struck, was posted on Twitter.
Pentagon officials clarified Friday that there had only been one IS attack on Thursday near Abbey Gate, Kabul airport, not two. On Thursday, the Pentagon said that there had been two explosions, the first at the Baron Hotel, near the airport’s perimeter. But on Friday it changed its account, saying that there had only been one. Information about the attack had been “garbled”, according to a senior Pentagon official. BBC News reporting.
AFGHANISTAN – FUTURE DIPLOMACY IN KABUL
President Biden plans to withdraw the U.S. ambassador and all diplomatic staff in Afghanistan by Tuesday, and it is unclear if and when they will return, according to two U.S. officials. The news comes despite the Taliban asking America to keep a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan beyond the Aug. 31 withdrawal of U.S. military forces, an option the Biden administration is “actively discussing,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Friday. The U.S. has not yet engaged directly with the Taliban to discuss what form a diplomatic mission might take, according to one U.S. official. John Hudson, Karoun Demirjian and Dan Lamothe report for the Washington Post.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also all but ruled out a future diplomatic presence. “In terms of having an on-the-ground diplomatic presence on Sept. 1, that’s not likely to happen,” Blinken said, adding, “we are going to have to see exactly what happens in the weeks and months ahead in terms of how the Taliban conducts itself, what the security situation is in the country.” “We’re going to be very, very actively engaged diplomatically, certainly in the region, and we’ll see what the prospects are and possibilities are down the road for being in Afghanistan itself,” he added. Vivian Salama and Nancy A. Youssef report for the Wall Street Journal.
Less than half a dozen U.S. consular-services people will remain in Kabul on a temporary basis, but their role in evacuating any remaining applicants will be limited, an official said. Vivian Salama and Nancy A. Youssef report for the Wall Street Journal.
Officials said it was expected that the U.S. mission to Afghanistan would open a diplomatic mission in a country elsewhere in the region, potentially Pakistan or the United Arab Emirates, in part to continue helping the surge of expected refugees obtain necessary departure documentation. Lara Jakes reports for the New York Times.
Turkey’s president Recep Erdogan has said the Turkish embassy in Kabul has returned to its building and that Ankara would maintain its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after operating from the airport for a fortnight. Al Jazeera reporting.
AFGHANISTAN – EVACUATING AMERICANS, ALLIES AND AFGHANS
The Department of Homeland Security announced yesterday that it had been directed by President Biden to take the lead in resettling Afghan refugees evacuated to the U.S. The Unified Coordination Group will be led by Robert J. Fenton Jr. and take charge of multiple services as part of the resettlement effort, including immigration processing, Covid-19 testing and resettlement support. Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.
Dozens of Afghan interpreters who worked for the British Army have been told by the Home Office that they will not be allowed into the U.K. because they are a “danger to [national] security,” leaving them trapped and fearing for their lives. The Home Office offered no further explanation or right of appeal. In a special hearing at the High Court on Friday night, a judge ordered the government to provide within 24 hours a greater explanation for why the man was suddenly considered a security risk – something it had yet to do by Sunday local time. Colin Drury reports for the Independent.
Reps. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and Andy Harris (R-MD) introduced articles of impeachment Friday morning against Secretary of State Antony Blinken over his handling of the Afghanistan evacuation mission, citing “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Joseph Clark reports for the Washington Times.
White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan stresses that U.S. officials did not give the Taliban lists of vulnerable Afghan allies and their specific information, saying that they have given only information about specific groups to help clear them through Taliban checkpoints, and that in virtually all cases those groups safely reached the airport for evacuation. CNN reporter John Harwood writes on Twitter.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also dismissed allegations that a list of names had been handed over. “In specific instances when you’re trying to get a bus or a group of people through, and you need to show a manifest to do that, because particularly in cases where people don’t have the necessary credentials on them or documents on them, then you would — you’ll share names on a list of people on the bus so they can be assured that those are people that we’re looking to bring in. And by definition, that’s exactly what’s happened,” Blinken explained. “And to the extent that in an individual case with a particular group or a bus to verify that the people on the bus or in that group were people who were supposed to come out, American citizens, especially again, if they lacked the right document with them, that’s what we would do. But the idea that we put anyone in any further jeopardy is simply wrong,” he added. Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
Their comments came after POLITICO reported that the joint U.S. military and diplomatic coordination team at the Kabul airport had provided a list of people to the Taliban in the early days of the evacuation that the U.S. wanted to evacuate from the country.
The Biden administration believes there is “still an opportunity for American citizens to jump to the airport, get on planes and get home,” Sullivan told host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “Sullivan added that administration officials believe they have ‘substantial leverage’ over the Taliban to hold the insurgent group to its commitments to allow the safe passage of American citizens, legal permanent residents and Afghan allies from the country,” Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
About 2,900 people were evacuated from Kabul from 3 a.m. Eastern time Saturday to 3 a.m. Sunday,according to the White House. Thirty-two U.S. military flights transported about 2,200 evacuees, and nine coalition flights carried 700 people, the White House said. Sean Sullivan reports for the Washington Post.
There are an estimated 350 Americans still in Afghanistan who have told U.S. officials they want to get out of the country, a State Department spokesperson said Saturday, noting that some of those individuals might have already found passage out of Kabul. The State Department also has contacted an additional 280 people who have claimed to be Americans in Afghanistan but either have not communicated their plans, or said they intend to stay behind. John Hudson, Karoun Demirjian and Dan Lamothe report for the Washington Post.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) yesterday said that the U.S. has “little or no leverage” to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies from Afghanistan after Tuesday’s withdrawal deadline, comments made Sullivan and Blinken said that the U.S. has “substantial leverage.” Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
Hundreds of students and alumni of the American University of Afghanistan were sent home as they tried to flee the country Sunday amid evacuations. After seven hours of waiting for clearance to enter the airport gates and driving around the city, the group met a dead end: Evacuations were permanently ended. The airport gates remained a security threat, and civilian evacuations were ending Monday. Farnaz Fassihi reports for the New York Times.
AFGHANISTAN – FREE MOVEMENT OF AFGHANS
The Taliban have assured world leaders that they will allow eligible people to leave Afghanistan after the Aug. 31 deadline. A joint statement released Sunday by the U.K., U.S. and more than 90 other countries, confirmed that the Taliban will permit people a safe exit from the country. “We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country,” the statement read. Rajeev Syal, Jason Burke and Patrick Wintour report for the Guardian.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that he, along with 114 other countries, expect the Taliban will continue to allow people to leave Afghanistan after Aug. 31. Blinken said: “114 countries have made very clear that it is their expectation that the Taliban will permit freedom of travel going past Aug. 31. So, that is a clear expectation across the entire world, across the entire international community.” David Cohen reports for POLITICO.
Senior Taliban officials released a video message Saturday appealing with Afghans to let the U.S. complete its withdrawal before trying to leave the country, promising that “no one will prevent” Afghans with the proper documentation from leaving the country. The message was by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the head of the Taliban’s political arm in Doha and a deputy to the group’s de facto leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. John Hudson, Karoun Demirjian and Dan Lamothe report for the Washington Post.
AFGHANISTAN – A NEW AFGHAN GOVERNMENT
The Taliban are preparing to put together a new Afghan cabinet as the U.S. wraps up its evacuation mission, spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said. Mujahid did not give an exact timeline of when the cabinet would be ready, but noted that the group already designated heads of education and public health institutions, among others. Reuters reports.
The Taliban haven’t yet met with any Hazara or Shia Leaders to engage them in talks about the formation of a future Afghan government, New York Times reporter Sharif Hassan said in a post on Twitter.
A group of veteran Afghan leaders, including two regional commanders that fled Afghanistan during the Taliban’s takeover, are angling for talks with the Taliban and plan to meet within weeks to form a new front for negotiating on the country’s next government. The band of leaders comprises Atta Mohammad Noor, the once-powerful governor of northern Afghanistan’s Balkh province, veteran ethnic Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum and others opposed to the Taliban’s takeover.
AFGHANISTAN – TALIBAN TAKEOVER AND VIOLENCE
Taliban forces are closing in on the last remaining region in Afghanistan not under their control – the Panjshir Valley, currently controlled by anti-Taliban groups – and are pressuring opposition leaders to join a new Afghan government, or face military action. “On Sunday, Taliban and rebel forces skirmished just outside the valley, a resistance leader said. Families of valley residents said the Taliban also cut telephone and internet connections to the valley. At the same time, talks between the two sides continued, officials in both camps said,” reports Saeed Shah and Ehsanullah Amiri for the Wall Street Journal.
The Russian ambassador to Kabul, Dmitry Zhirnov, said yesterday that the Taliban could take over the Panjshir province within hours. Panjshir province in the north-east of the country has emerged as a center of resistance to Taliban rule in recent weeks. The Guardian reporting,
“Girls and boys will no longer be able to study together in universities and will continue to study in separate classes in accordance with Islamic law,” TOLO News journalist Ziar Khan Yaad has quoted Taliban caretaker higher education minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani as saying.
The Taliban have directed farmers to stop cultivating opium poppies, causing prices of raw opium, which is processed into heroin, to soar across the country. “In recent days, Taliban representatives began telling gatherings of villagers in the southern province of Kandahar, one of the country’s main opium-producing regions, that the crop – a crucial part of the local economy – would now be banned. Local farmers in Kandahar, Uruzgan and Helman provinces said raw opium prices have tripled, from about $70 to about $200 per kilogram, due to uncertainty about future production. In the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, the opium price has doubled, residents there said,” Sune Engel Rasmussen, Zamir Saar and James Marson report for the Wall Street Journal.
Five Taliban fighters killed a popular folk singer on Thursday, one of his sons said, raising more doubt about whether the Taliban will restore its oppressive rule and ban basic liberties such as playing and listening to music. The circumstances of the killing are unclear but it appears that the man was first kidnapped before family members found his dead body dumped near their home on Friday. “Bilal Karimi, a Taliban spokesman, denied its fighters had killed the singer and suggested that he was targeted by local enemies,” report Ezzatullah Mehrdad and Sudarsan Raghavan for the Washington Post.
Taliban forces raided the Afghan National Security Directorate and the Ministry of Communications when they first stormed Kabul – their aim was to secure the files of Afghan intelligence officers and their informers, and to obtain the means of tracking the telephone numbers of Afghan citizens, said two Afghan officials who had been briefed separately on the raid. “Few officials found the time to shred documents, and thousands of top-secret files and payroll lists fell into the hands of the enemy, the two officials said,” reports Carlotta Gall for the New York Times.
AFGHANISTAN – SECURING KABUL AND ITS AIRPORT
France and Britain will submit a resolution to an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting on Monday on Afghanistan, proposing “a safe zone in Kabul, under U.N. control, which would allow humanitarian operations to continue,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday, later adding that he believed the resolution would be favorably received. Reuters reporting.
The Taliban are “waiting for the final nod from the Americans to secure full control over Kabul airport,” an unidentified Taliban official told Reuters on Sunday, saying that technical experts and highly qualified engineers are prepared to take over control of the airport “very soon” after the U.S. leaves the region, according to Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid. Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
National security advisor Jake Sullivan yesterday said that the Biden administration is actively working to “disrupt and prevent” more “threat streams” as the U.S. draws to a close its evacuation mission. “There are more threat streams that we are working actively to try to disrupt and prevent and as the president has said, another attack could occur at any time,” Sullivan told host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
Sullivan further warned of the “exceedingly dangerous moment” currently underway, saying that although the U.S. was doing everything in its power to prevent and disrupt threat streams, “all we can do is mitigate, and we are in a period of serious danger given what we are seeing in the intelligence.”Blinken also highlighted the ongoing danger of the current evacuation efforts. Aubree Eliza Weaver reports for POLITICO.
The American Embassy in Kabul warned Saturday that U.S. citizens at the airport “who are at the Abbey gate, East gate, North gate or the New Ministry of Interior gate now should leave immediately,”hours after Biden warned of a “specific, credible threat” of attack “in the next 24 to 36 hours.” Eric Schmitt, Zia ur-Rehman, Jim Huylebroek, Najim Rahim, Fahim Abed and Farnaz Fassihi report for the New York Times.
AFGHANISTAN – THE U.S. AND BIDEN ADMINISTRATION
U.S. forces were in the final phase of leaving Kabul on Sunday, although a specific, decided date and time to officially end the operation is still undecided, a Western security official said. “A U.S. official told Reuters on Saturday there were fewer than 4,000 troops left at the airport, down from 5,800 at the peak of the evacuation mission. Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters some troops had been withdrawn but declined to say how many remained,” Reuters reporting.
Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller was relieved of duty on Sunday “due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command” following a video he posted to Facebook criticizing senior military officials and demanding accountability for Thursday’s attack, Marine Corps spokesperson Maj. Jim Stenger told The Hill. Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
Russia’s envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, has called on the U.S. to release Afghan central bank reserves that Washington blocked after the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul. “If our western colleagues are actually worried about the fate of the Afghan people, then we must not create additional problems for them by freezing gold and foreign exchange reserves,” said Kabulov, AFP reported. The Guardian reports.
President Biden arrived at Dover Air Force Base Sunday morning to honor the U.S. troops killed last Thursday in Afghanistan and meet with their families. At around noon, the president participated in what is known as a “dignified transfer” — an official proceeding for transferring the remains of U.S. service members killed during their deployments, the White House said. Sean Sullivan reports for the Washington Post.
Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi reportedly called for the world to “positively guide” the Taliban during a phone call with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday. “While respecting the sovereignty of Afghanistan, the U.S. should take concrete action to help Afghanistan fight terrorism and stop violence, rather than playing double standards or fighting terrorism selectively,” Wang said to Blinken. Reuters reporting.
AFGHANISTAN – FUTURE U.S. COUNTERTERRORISM
The U.S. military is confident it will be able to find additional collaborators and “continue to have the ability to defend ourselves and to leverage over the horizon capability to conduct counterterrorism operations as needed,” Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor confirmed in a Pentagon press briefing said in the briefing. Lara Seligman reports for POLITICO.
Eagle Base, the final C.I.A. outpost outside the Kabul airport, was destroyed by a controlled detonation, U.S. officials said on Friday. “The base’s destruction had been planned and was not related to the huge explosion at the airport that killed an estimated 170 Afghans and 13 American service members. But the detonation, hours after the airport attack, alarmed many people in Kabul, who feared that it was another terrorist bombing.,” Julian E. Barns and Farnaz Fassiihi report for the New York Times.
The rapid fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and a recent flurry of airstrikes in Somalia present difficulties for the Biden administration finalizing a new playbook for counterterrorism strikes outside conventional war zones, according to current and former officials who said the administration had hoped to finish its playbook by Sept. 11. After more than seven months reviewing current policies, a decision was made to adopt a hybrid approach that would draw elements from both the Obama and Trump-era systems, officials said. “As now conceived, the Biden-era playbook would return to centralized interagency vetting of proposed strikes — a hallmark of the Obama approach — in nations where such operations are rare, they said. But for places where strikes are likely to be more routine, like Somalia and Afghanistan, it would keep part of the Trump approach: issuing “country plans” that establish policy goals and targeting standards, then giving commanders in the field greater latitude to decide on their own to carry out particular strikes. Still, the country plans would be more restrictive than the Trump versions, the officials said. For example, safeguards against civilian bystander deaths under Mr. Trump often gave adult men less protection than women and children, but the prospective Biden plans would make the safeguards equivalent. The Biden rules are also set to require the military to obtain consent for strikes by the State Department’s chiefs of mission, they said,” reports Charlie Savage for the New York Times.
AFGHANISTAN – THE U.K.
Hundreds of Afghan special forces commandos could fight for the British Army under a new regiment, similar to how the Gurkhas did, under new proposals put forward by ministers. Afghans already enrolled at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, who had been due to join the Afghan National Army, could now join the British Army instead, reports Lucy Fisher for the Telegraph.
An Afghan blame game erupted in the U.K. over the weekend as the final British troops and diplomatic staff, including the British ambassador, left Afghanistan and landed at the RAF Brize Norton military base, ending the United Kingdom’s 20-year deployment in the country. “Ministers and officials accused the Foreign Office of negligence in preparing escape routes and claimed that up to 9,000 people who could have been eligible for rescue would be left behind. It was also claimed that the decision by Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, to remain on holiday at the start of the crisis cost vital days that meant up to 1,000 people have not been evacuated who otherwise would have been,” Tim Shipman and Chris Smyth report for The Times.
The select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack last week requested a massive tranche of records from social media companies, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Parler, 4chan, Twitch and TikTok, giving them a two-week deadline. The panel asked for “all records and documents since April 1, 2020, relating to misinformation around the 2020 election, efforts to overturn the 2020 election, domestic violent extremists associated with efforts to overturn the election and foreign influence in the 2020 election. The panel is asking all of the companies to explain whether their algorithms helped spread misinformation and account for what they did to address or remove content or posts that might have spread falsehoods about the riot. It also requests information on the companies’ communications with law enforcement regarding Jan. 6 and the election, as well as on their reporting practices,” reports Nicholas Wu for POLITICO.
The panel is also seeking executive branch documents from at least eight government agencies, which is likely to force another standoff between Congress and former President Trump over the issue of executive privilege. “The request from the committee includes an exhaustive list of Trump associates, including family members and close aides. The letter asks for documents and communications from within the White House “relating in any way” to former first lady Melania Trump; three of the former president’s children, Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr.; son-in-law Jared Kushner; as well as any member of Congress or Hill staffers. It also asks for the National Archives to turn over communications with all of Trump’s top aides,” report Harper Neidig and Rebecca Beitsch for The Hill.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told President Biden during their White House meeting Friday that he won’t publicly campaign against a U.S. return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, two U.S. sources briefed on the meeting told Axios. According to one of the sources, Bennett said his philosophy of running the coalition is that when someone makes him angry he doesn’t go to the media but picks up the phone. “This is how I want us to work. If you have an issue with something we do call us and don’t go to the press,” he told Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Barak Ravid reports for Axios.
Biden will meet with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the White House on Wednesday, the White House said yesterday. Reuters reporting.
Biden held a summit last week with more than 20 key leaders focused on strengthening the cybersecurity workforce, preventing ransomware attacks and ensuring that technology companies have security features baked into their products. Biden stressed at the start of the meeting that he regarded threats in cyberspace as a “core national security challenge.” Maggie Miller repoprts for The Hill.
China’s defense ministry on Sunday protested the passage of USS Kidd guided-missile destroyer and coastguard cutter Munro through the Taiwan strait on Friday. “A statement posted on the ministry’s website on Saturday called the move provocative and said it showed the United States is the biggest threat to peace and stability and creator of security risks in the 160-km (100-mile) wide Taiwan Strait.” Al Jazeera reporting.
North Korea appears to have resumed operation of its plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon, the U.N. atomic agency disclosed in the its annual report on North Korea’s nuclear activities. BBC News reporting.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz met Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank on Sunday to discuss “security policy, civilian and economic issues,” Israel’s defense ministry said in a statement, the first official Israeli-Palestinian talks since Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took office in June. France 24 reports.
The Russian government has upped its efforts to repress any opposition in the run-up to parliamentary election next months. United Russia, the ruling party that has long supported President Vladimir Putin, is expected to maintain a majority of the seats in the next Duma, despite polls showing that just 26% of Russians are ready to vote for the party. “The Russian government has silenced opposition voices, approved cash payouts to potential voters, and made it nearly impossible to monitor the polls as it prepares for parliamentary elections next month that the opposition has warned will be marred by fraud,” reports Andrew Roth for the Guardian.
As France plans to cut by half its military presence in West Africa, extremist groups in the region are imagining and hoping that they themselves can mirror the Taliban-style victory in Afghanistan, with fighters loyal to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State viewing the Taliban’s “patience” against foreign powers as a winning strategy. Danielle Paquette and Rick Noack report for the Washington Post.
At least 30 soldiers have been killed and 60 more wounded in Houthi rebel attacks on a military base in Yemen belonging to forces of the Saudi-led coalition, a spokesperson for Yemen’s southern forces said. “Sunday’s attack on the al-Anad military base in the government-held southern province of Lahij was carried out using armed drones and ballistic missiles, said Mohamed al-Naqeeb, the spokesman,” reports Reuters.
The coronavirus has infected over 38.79 million and has now killed over 637,500 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 216.47 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.502 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
The E.U. is set to advise its member states that they should reintroduce travel restrictions for visitors from the United States, three E.U. officials said Sunday. The U.S. will apparently be removed from the E.U.’s travel “safe list” of countries whose residents can come to the 27-nation bloc without additional restrictions like quarantining and testing requirements. “The suggested restrictions, made by the European Council, will not be mandatory for member countries, and it will remain up to those countries to decide whether or not to impose them,” reports Elian Peltier and Steven Erlanger for the New York Times.
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.