Fdd's overnight brief

August 16, 2021

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Taliban fighters on Sunday took over the Afghan capital and President Ashraf Ghani fled abroad, leaving the government in collapse, as a U.S.-led military operation began to airlift Western diplomats, civilians and Afghans likely to be targeted by the country’s new rulers. – Wall Street Journal 

At least three people were killed by gunfire Monday morning at the passenger terminal of Kabul’s international airport, where thousands of Afghans who fear for their lives after the Taliban takeover of the country have swarmed in hopes of getting an evacuation flight. – Wall Street Journal 

In late June, a stark new intelligence estimate said the government of President Ashraf Ghani could collapse in as soon as six months after the U.S. withdrew its troops from Afghanistan. – Wall Street Journal 

As Taliban fighters took Kabul on Sunday evening, roaming through the halls of the abandoned presidential palace, the group issued a statement: It would soon revive Afghanistan’s former name. – Washington Post 

The Taliban’s stunningly swift advances across Afghanistan have sparked global alarm, reviving doubts about the credibility of U.S. foreign policy promises and drawing harsh criticisms even from some of the United States’ closest allies.  – Washington Post 

Afghan activists, journalists and advocates for women’s rights scrambled to identify escape routes on Sunday as international civil society organizations intensified a chaotic effort to evacuate local allies under threat following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. – Washington Post 

The spectacular collapse of Afghanistan’s military that allowed Taliban fighters to walk into the Afghan capital Sunday despite 20 years of training and billions of dollars in American aid began with a series of deals brokered in rural villages between the militant group and some of the Afghan government’s lowest-ranking officials. – Washington Post 

Nearly half a century later, Biden’s attitude toward the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has been strikingly similar — even as events echo the frantic evacuation of Americans and those who helped them in South Vietnam. – Washington Post  

The United Nations Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday morning after the Taliban appeared to take control of Afghanistan, where the U.N. has maintained an extensive aid operation since the early days of the American-led occupation two decades ago. – New York Times 

More than a hundred journalists employed by the American government’s own radio stations remain in Afghanistan as the Taliban take power, U.S. officials and Afghan journalists said Sunday. – New York Times 

The experience of those in Kunduz offers a glimpse of how the Taliban may govern, and what may be in store for the rest of the country. – New York Times 

The Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority (ACAA) said on Monday that Kabul airspace had been released to the military and that it advised transit aircraft to reroute, according to a notice to airmen on its website, hastening some airline route switches. – Reuters 

More than 60 countries issued a joint statement saying Afghans and international citizens who want to leave Afghanistan must be allowed to depart and added that airports and border crossings must remain open, the U.S. State Department said late on Sunday. – Reuters 

Thousands of inmates, including former Islamic State and al-Qaeda fighters, were released from a prison on the outskirts of Kabul as the Taliban called for a “peaceful transition” of power. – Business Insider 

The Taliban’s successful military operations this week may have come because the United States “underestimated” the group’s “planning capabilities,” according to one former CENTCOM commander. – Washington Examiner 

The Taliban have released footage showing captured US-made Afghan military helicopters at Kandahar airport, until recently one of the most important US bases in the country. – Agence Frace-Presse 

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday urged the Taliban and all other parties to exercise the utmost restraint in order to protect lives and expressed particular concern about the future of women and girls in Afghanistan. – Reuters 

Editorial: The consequences of all this will play out over many months and years, and none will be good. The illusion, indulged on the left and right, that the U.S. can avoid the world’s horrors while gardening its entitlement state, is sure to come home to haunt. Adversaries are taking Mr. Biden’s measure, and there will be more trouble ahead. The costs will be all the more painful because the ugliness of this surrender was so unnecessary. – Wall Street Journal  

Editorial: Mr. Miervaldis says Afghanistan for him is “watching this movie on repeat” from his experience in Iraq. When the U.S. withdrew there in 2011, jihadists emptied the prisons and the insurgency reformed into ISIS. He fears the same will happen as the Taliban empties prisons, and al Qaeda and ISIS establish havens. The Biden Administration’s withdrawal is already a catastrophe, but it has a moral obligation to keep U.S. forces in Kabul for as long as it takes to evacuate all of the Afghans and their families who assisted us. – Wall Street Journal 

Editorial: But the “international community” was doing precisely that by maintaining a modest allied force and air power in Afghanistan. Now they’re gone, and we can see what will happen to the women and girls of that country. […] Mrs. Pelosi is so used to giving political lectures she doesn’t seem to realize she is detached from reality. – Wall Street Journal 

Editorial: So far Mr. Biden seems determined to stick with his hell-bent withdrawal, and perhaps he thinks Americans won’t care. But they will care if they see in a few weeks or months the revival of safe havens for al Qaeda or Islamic State. They will care if they think the U.S. homeland is threatened. […] We realize that our advice is a long shot given Mr. Biden’s determination to wash his hands of Afghanistan. But the costs of the bloody defeat that now seems likely will be far greater than the President thinks if the Taliban’s flag soon flies over Kabul. – Wall Street Journal 

David E. Sanger writes: But Mr. Biden’s own words make clear he was confident this day would not come for a long time, if ever. […]All true. But it is Mr. Biden who may be remembered for his role in wildly overestimating the strength of the Afghan forces, and not moving fast enough when it became clear the scenarios he had been presented with were wrong. – New York Times 

Bret Stephens writes: Now these arguments belong to the past. The war in Afghanistan isn’t just over. It’s lost. A few Americans may cheer this humiliation, and many more will shrug at it. But the consequences of defeat are rarely benign for nations, no matter how powerful they otherwise appear to be. America’s enemies, great and small, will draw conclusions from our needless surrender, just as they will about the frighteningly oblivious president who brought it about. – New York Times 

Michael R. Bloomberg writes: Biden also needs to show leadership in constraining the Taliban. If extremist groups re-emerge in Afghanistan, airstrikes and special-operations raids should follow. Cajoling neighboring countries for intelligence support and basing rights for U.S. planes will be essential. Even if the Taliban retakes power, the U.S. has a moral and strategic responsibility to remain engaged in Afghanistan’s future. – Bloomberg 

Ruth Pollard writes: President Ashraf Ghani, whose government — mired in allegations of corruption and incompetence — failed to either anticipate the Taliban’s rapid advance or unite the country’s powerful warlords behind the Afghan National Army, reportedly left the country Sunday with a coterie of aides. For now, people are in shock, Khurram says. There are no tears — no one understands what to feel any more. – Bloomberg 

Simon Henderson writes: Afghanistan’s history suggests that foreign influences will continue to compete there, but there will be multiple players rather than that simple British-Russian rivalry — the “Great Game” of 150 years ago. But an underlying feature of that period was misapprehension of what the other country was capable of, rather than an appreciation of what it dreamt of doing. So perhaps a key question is how China, Iran, Russia, Pakistan and India read history and how much it affects their decisions today. – The Hill 

Dov S. Zakheim writes: The time for Washington’s reverie about an acceptable outcome to what it calls the “forever war” is long past over. There will be no acceptable outcome. If the Biden team remains committed to withdrawing all American forces by the end of this month, it had better come up with another way to ensure that the updated version of Afghanistan circa 2001 does not come back to haunt Americans after two decades of bloody and costly conflict. – The Hill 

Joe Concha writes: Now the president has a fourth front to defend: Afghanistan, a country that is about to be governed by a terrorist organization that will not hesitate to harbor the likes of ISIS and al Qaeda again. It’s the ’70s all over again, except things overall are actually worse. But unlike with Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, the U.S. may be forced to send our troops back in if al Qaeda 2.0 can reorganize in the Taliban’s Afghanistan and carry out another devastating attack on the homeland. – The Hill 

Miranda Devine writes: This lawless, feckless administration has wreaked untold damage at warp speed in seven months. These aren’t mistakes that you can bounce back from. They will have ramifications well into the future. – New York Post 

Tom Rogan writes:  Following that article, a reader emailed me to ask why Britain should stand with America and risk Chinese economic retaliation, when Biden is an unreliable partner. I thought the critique was unfair. Now, I’m not so sure. But I am sure about one thing. Witnessing Biden’s Afghan disaster, many other allied populations and governments will be asking the same question. – Washington Examiner 

France Hoang writes: Finally, Biden should immediately and clearly state his public support for this effort and back his words by empowering the secretary of state and secretary of defense to take all actions necessary for the United States to fulfill its moral obligation to its Afghan allies. There is still time to save Jabar, his family, and the tens of thousands of Afghan allies like them who risked their lives alongside soldiers like myself. But the window to act is almost gone. – War on the Rocks 

Michael Rubin writes: The Afghanistan withdrawal, however, and the shamelessness with which Biden, like Trump before him, turns his back on allies, should raise questions about whether America would really uphold its NATO commitments, or whether some future president would simply try to spin his or her way out of them. […]Pentagon officials and diplomats might contest any lessening of America’s commitment with indignation, but the reality is NATO is a Dead Man Walking. – 19fortyfive 

Michael Rubin writes: The decision to withdraw American forces may not have been Director of Central Intelligence William Burns’ but the intelligence failures surrounding it are. As Americans grapple with a national security, diplomatic, and defense disaster that will have generational implications, it is essential that Burns testify to explain why his multi-billion dollar agency managed to read Taliban capabilities and actions so wrong. – 19fortyfive 

Safar Ali Paiam writes: In short, I cannot travel anywhere, and my future is in a state of complete ambiguity, and I may be killed by the Taliban at any moment. Therefore, I hopefully request from the leadership of the United States and the United States Army, as my former colleagues, to rescue me and save my life and my family’s lives, by granting special immigrant visa to the United States of America. – Military Times 

George Packer writes: There’s plenty of blame to go around for the 20-year debacle in Afghanistan—enough to fill a library of books. Perhaps the effort to rebuild the country was doomed from the start. But our abandonment of the Afghans who helped us, counted on us, staked their lives on us, is a final, gratuitous shame that we could have avoided. The Biden administration failed to heed the warnings on Afghanistan, failed to act with urgency—and its failure has left tens of thousands of Afghans to a terrible fate. This betrayal will live in infamy. The burden of shame falls on President Joe Biden. – The Atlantic 


When a cyberattack on Iran’s railroad system last month caused widespread chaos with hundreds of trains delayed or canceled, fingers naturally pointed at Israel, which has been locked in a long-running shadow war with Tehran. – New York Times 

A record surge in infections and deaths from Covid-19 in Iran poses an early challenge to new President Ebrahim Raisi, as authorities struggle to contain an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant amid loose pandemic restrictions and a slow vaccine campaign. – Wall Street Journal 

Iran is to impose a one-week lockdown and a ban on road travel amid a fifth COVID-19 surge in the worst-hit country in the Middle East, state television reported on Saturday. – Reuters 

Iran said it will provide temporary refuge to Afghans arriving at its borders as the Taliban advance on Kabul, prompting thousands of people to flee the city. – Bloomberg 

The U.S. sanctioned an individual and businesses it says are involved in an oil-smuggling network that supports Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force. – Bloomberg 

Eric R. Mandel writes: We should be unafraid to say the obvious: The end of Iran’s jihadist government is the best hope to end the long Middle East Winter. The U.S. must support the Iranian people so that they can choose new leaders in an election that is not rigged. That means continuing, and increasing, economic pressure on the current government. The goal is to achieve regime change in Iran without American boots on the ground — the best bet for our long-term security interests. – The Hill 

Paulo Casaca and Maurizio Geri write: Ultimately, good relations between Sunnis and Shias in Iran’s neighbouring Arab countries present the most effective antidote to the regime’s geopolitical plans. In the absence of a strong US military presence and faced with the most hawkish Iranian leader in years, that is a realization regional and international powers absolutely must take on board. And it makes the kind of efforts that took place in Mecca last week, under the auspices of the Muslim World League, not merely desirable, but necessary. – Times of Israel 

Danielle Pletka writes: Between the hot air spouted by Sunni jihadists, the empty promises of Arab leaders, the growing acceptance of Israel by once-stalwart supporters of the Palestinians in the Gulf, Iran can at least claim it’s doing something. […]Of course, the best option for the Palestinian people would be to embrace a more serious democratic process, elect new leaders, renounce the extremism of Iranian-backed groups, and lean in to a real peace process with Israel. But that’s not what Iran and its fellow travelers are fighting for. – The Dispatch 





Israel on Saturday condemned Poland’s approval of a law that restricts the rights of Holocaust survivors or their descendants to reclaim property seized by the country’s former communist regime and announced it was recalling its top diplomat in protest. – Associated Press 

Israeli forces on a raid in the occupied West Bank exchanged fire on Monday with Palestinian gunmen, Israeli police said, while a Palestinian local official said at least four Palestinians were killed. – Reuters 

Israel will allow the entry of merchants and businessmen from the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing for the first time in some 18 months, the military announced Friday. – Times of Israel 

A former Israeli ambassador sounded a warning on Sunday in the wake of the Taliban’s lightning takeover of Afghanistan, saying it shows that Israel must rely on itself for its own defense. – Algemeiner 

Israel and Hamas are headed toward another round of fighting, as international mediators appear to have failed to achieve a breakthrough on bringing Qatari aid money to the Gaza Strip and on the easing of Israeli restrictions, Palestinians warned on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post 

The Palestine Al Yawm news website, which is affiliated with the Islamic Jihad, reported on Sunday that Palestinian terrorist groups have informed the mediators and Israel that they have an additional day to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip. – Arutz Sheva 

Israel’s High Court of Justice on Sunday dismissed a petition by Palestinians against a deal cut between settler residents of an illegal outpost and Israeli authorities. – Times of Israel 

Palestinian rioters near the evacuated West Bank outpost of Evyatar put up a flaming wooden Star of David with a swastika inside on Saturday night that was captured on video and widely circulated. – Jerusalem Post 

Alon Ben-Meir writes: It is a wake-up call for all Palestinians, from the most moderate to the staunchest extremist. They must disabuse Israel of the belief that the Palestinians cannot be trusted and instead put Israel on the defensive by ending the dead-end narrative of from the river to the sea, and mean it. To be sure, the longer they hammer this illusion, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza will become an illusion too. – Jerusalem Post 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Countries are testing US resolve. The US looks to be in a bind after the debacle in Kabul. […]If the Palestinian Authority faces challenges, will the Palestinian security forces be up to the task? And what becomes of Eastern Syria and the SDF, another key force the US helped support? This matters because enemies, such as Iran, want to move into any power vacuum in the region and set up shop. We know what that shop looks like in places like Lebanon. It’s a bankrupt operation. The US needs to reassure allies that it will stick by the region in this difficult time. – Jerusalem Post 

Anna Ahronheim writes: Israel is well aware that should it leave, the PA would disintegrate and Hamas would grab control of the West Bank. […]The IDF withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza sent a message to terrorist groups that there was a way to beat the Israelis: not through military operations or by diplomacy, but by wearing them down until they withdrew. And that’s exactly what the Taliban has done. It has worn out the great and powerful US military. Just like it did to the British and the Russians. – Jerusalem Post 

Michael Milshtein and Amos Gilead write: Israel must identify the axis that connects all three arenas, whose leaders follow similar logic and even maintain a level of dialogue and shared learning processes. It has to understand that while its enemies are still deterred from launching a broad campaign against it, they are trying to determine whether its red lines can be redrawn. This dynamic may lead Israel – and its enemies – into a wider escalation, even one that is unplanned and runs contrary to the basic interests of all the players. – Ynet 

Amos Harel writes: But Israel is neither Afghanistan nor Iraq. America’s ties with and Israel and its commitment to the state are completely different, as are the benefits America sees from the partnership. Still it’s clear which is the superhero and which is the sidekick. America’s reduced interest in the Middle East in favor of a turn toward the Far East is already a done deal. But that doesn’t mean the United States will leave Israel on to fend for itself. – Haaretz 


A warehouse containing illegally stored fuel exploded in northern Lebanon early Sunday, killing 28 people and injuring dozens, as the Mediterranean nation grapples with a severe fuel crisis during an economic collapse. – Wall Street Journal 

Lebanon’s army seized fuel from gas stations on Saturday to curb hoarding amid crippling shortages, as the central bank chief stood firm on his decision to scrap fuel subsidies. – Agence France-Presse 

Lebanon’s central bank governor said nobody was running the country, hitting back after government criticism of his decision to halt fuel subsidies that have drained currency reserves. – Reuters 

Lebanese President Michel Aoun tweeted on Saturday that he hopes “white smoke” will appear soon with regards to the formation of a new government. – Reuters 

Lebanese citizens protested against two Hezbollah MPs over the weekend, with residents of the Beqaa Valley in eastern Lebanon demonstrating against the deteriorating situation in the country amid a worsening economic crisis. – Jerusalem Post 

Gulf States

Among 37 people executed for terrorism-related crimes in one day in 2019, at least two were under 18 at the time of the crimes they were accused of, according to Human Rights Watch. – New York Times 

The United Arab Emirates foreign ministry on Sunday said it was working on facilitating the evacuation of foreign diplomatic staff from Afghanistan through airports in the Gulf Arab state. – Reuters 

Qatar said it had urged the Taliban to cease fire and pull back their offensive in Afghanistan during a meeting between the Qatari foreign minister and a top representative of the Afghan insurgents in Doha on Saturday. – Reuters 

The Biden administration is working to finalize an agreement with Qatar to temporarily house thousands of Afghans who worked with the United States and their families and are fleeing their country as the security situation deteriorates, according to a source familiar with the ongoing discussions. The source said it could be as many as 8,000 Afghans but cautioned the deal is not final. – CNN 

Middle East & North Africa

A decade after Libya descended into chaos, a host of countries are eyeing potential multi-billion-dollar infrastructure projects in the oil-rich nation if stability is assured. – Agence France-Presse 

King Abdullah II of Jordan on Sunday underlined the necessity to step up international efforts to achieve a just and comprehensive peace that would enable the Palestinian Arabs to establish their independent state, the Xinhua news agency reports. – Arutz Sheva 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: These may be the unforeseen consequences of Afghanistan. Insurgent and proxy groups backed by Iran, Turkey or others may increase global chaos in some places and quietly eat away at liberal international structures. That is why Iran feels free rein to attack ships off the coast of Oman. These incidents are symbolic, and they may be linked to the rise of the Taliban again in Afghanistan. – Jerusalem Post 

Salem Al Ketbi writes: In particular, the initiative emphasizes that “Algeria’s security and stability, and the tranquility of its people, are organically linked to Morocco’s security and stability.” “The two countries are indissolubly linked” given the convergence of challenges they face. […]This situation wastes the energies of both countries and is contrary to the bonds of brotherhood between the two peoples. Everyone should contemplate this clear situation that requires qualitative decisions to change the reality of relations between two fellow countries. – Jerusalem Post 

Aaron Stein and Ryan Fishel write: There is little doubt that in the skies over Syria, there were two great powers flying very capable jets in proximity to one another with mutually unknown intentions. A third power, Iran, was also present, as was a near failed state, Syria. […]However, it is the most recent example of how competition between two countries may actually take place in congested skies in a country where both actors are trying to project power. American airmen were unprepared to face the range of scenarios that they confronted in Syria. Looking ahead, the Air Force should learn those lessons and incorporate them into future training. – War on the Rocks 

Michael Rubin writes: Lukashenko may be a hardened dictator backed by Putin. But Erdogan is more akin to a schoolyard bully whose bulk is fat rather than muscle. If Biden and Blinken are serious about reversing Erdogan’s provocations in Varosha and elsewhere, it is time to replace empty statements with sanctions targeting men like Cengiz and Ozdemir. Biden and Blinken may be surprised at how quickly the Turkish dictator folds. – Washington Examiner 

Abdullah Al-Jabassini writes: Even if the case of Daraa al-Balad is resolved, other areas in western and eastern Daraa will, sooner rather than later, come under similar pressure by the regime to give in and make concessions. Russia seems to be aware of the need to upgrade and generalize the 2018 agreement in a way that correspond to changes in regional politics and meets the new realities in southern Syria. – Middle East Institute 


China’s economy slowed more than expected in July as extreme weather and the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus swept across the country, adding more strains to a recovery that was already plateauing more than a year after the pandemic first exploded. – Wall Street Journal 

A young Chinese woman says she was held for eight days at a Chinese-run secret detention facility in Dubai along with at least two Uyghurs, in what may be the first evidence that China is operating a so-called “black site” beyond its borders. – Associated Press 

Chinese courts just dropped a pair of global headline-grabbing decisions that bring the bad blood in the Canada-China relationship to the center of the 2021 federal election campaign. – Politico 

China’s state media mocked the US troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, saying the Taliban’s takeover of the country was “more smooth” than the presidential transfer of powers in the US. – Bloomberg 

George Soros writes: In other words, he has turned them into his own yes-men, abolishing the legacy of Deng’s consensual rule. With Mr. Xi there is little room for checks and balances. He will find it difficult to adjust his policies to a changing reality, because he rules by intimidation. His underlings are afraid to tell him how reality has changed for fear of triggering his anger. This dynamic endangers the future of China’s one-party state. – Wall Street Journal 

Robert Redfield and Marc Siegel write: Meantime, a growing body of circumstantial evidence supports the lab-leak theory, including information reported by the U.S. State Department that employees of the Wuhan lab were becoming sick with Covid-like symptoms in the fall of 2019. […]We need a comprehensive bipartisan investigation into the origin of Covid-19. Until then, we call for a world-wide moratorium on gain-of-function research while authorities develop a clear and careful policy to help prevent the next pandemic. – Wall Street Journal 

Tom Rogan writes: An example of China’s vulnerability in this regard is the escalating political divorce between the elected European Union Parliament and unelected European Union Council over a possible EU-China trade deal. China’s bullying of smaller nations such as Lithuania and the Czech Republic is also creating a backlash, fostering broader European skepticism toward China. Put simply, the Biden administration is right to organize this summit and would be even more right to invite Taiwan to attend. – Washington Examiner 

Sam Dunning writes: In Afghanistan, Beijing is still hedging its bets, content to gather intelligence—a spy ring was busted in Kabul last December—and to cultivate a broad circle of friends and a wide range of interests. The Wakhan Corridor, a frontier with form when it comes to geopolitical intrigue, will remain a hotbed of imperial ambitions, regardless of what anyone living there wants. – Foreign Policy 

Charles Dunst writes: But Cold War-era U.S. failures nonetheless teach us that money alone cannot buy victory. Great powers win only by spending the human price—by investing in top-quality diplomats and aid workers, for starters. Yet to China’s detriment, this price is not yet one its top leaders consider worth paying, despite the diplomatic corps’ decades-long effort to do just that. Until Xi and others in Beijing think otherwise, an ugly stereotype of Chinese abroad will persist, muddying the waters and perhaps dragging down China’s global ambitions to a point of no return. – Foreign Policy 

Thomas Shugart writes: As I recommended in testimony to the U.S.-China Commission earlier this year, Taiwan and the United States should deploy larger numbers of survivable anti-ship weapons, with a focus — given the likelihood that the Chinese maritime militia will provide decoys and concealment for naval units — on smart weapons that are capable of identifying and targeting specific vessels such as China’s dual-use roll-on/roll-off vessels and amphibious assault ships.  […]Does all of this mean that China has been assembling, in plain sight, a transport fleet sufficient to invade Taiwan successfully? To be sure, the answer to that question remains far from clear. – War on the Rocks 

South Asia

The Taliban are claiming towns and territories across Afghanistan. With each victory, scrutiny is falling on the leaders of neighboring Pakistan. – New York Times 

Turkey will work with Pakistan to help stabilize Afghanistan and prevent a new flood of refugees, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday. – Agence France-Presse 

Armenia has reiterated its support for India over its decades-long territorial dispute with Pakistan and expressed gratitude to New Delhi for its “targeted statements” regarding the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Kamran Bokhari writes: As we have seen in so many situations during the past two decades in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, regime change is a terribly messy process. Weak regimes can be toppled; replacing them is the hard part. It is only a matter of time before the Afghan state collapses, unleashing chaos that will spill beyond its borders. All of Afghanistan’s neighbors will be affected to varying degrees, but Pakistan and China have the most to lose. – Wall Street Journal 

Akhil Ramesh writes: With the withdrawal of troops coming to an end and the Taliban capturing one city after another, liberals of the world should at least now heed to the voice of Afghans and not cater blindly to Western scholars. After all, Afghans know their history best, they live the consequences of Western intervention and share a border with Pakistan. – The Hill 

Michael Rubin writes: Lastly, it is time to impose targeted travel and banking sanctions on ISI and Pakistani army officers involved in supporting the Taliban and other terrorist groups. Mr. President, for the honor of not only Afghanistan but also the United States, make Pakistan pay. A future generation of Pakistanis who aspire to live in a normal country not hijacked by extremism will one day thank you. – The National Interest 


The group that organized some of the biggest marches during Hong Kong’s 2019 protests said it would disband, as the national-security law ensnares wider swaths of the city’s civil society. – Wall Street Journal 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Sunday that his government remained open to dialogue with Japan to step up cooperation while seeking to resolve historical rows that had long frayed bilateral ties. – Reuters 

Pro-Beijing candidates are running uncontested for most seats in a Hong Kong election committee tasked with choosing the city’s leader, with the pro-democracy camp almost absent, government announcements showed on Friday. – Reuters 

Uzbekistan has detained 84 Afghan soldiers who crossed the border, the government said on August 15, adding that another group of soldiers had amassed near a border checkpoint on the Afghan side. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Editorial: A more assertive Japan is probably inevitable and necessary if Chinese hegemony in Asia is to be averted. Yet the U.S. is taking a risk as it lets the military balance erode and China’s ambitions expand. If U.S. deterrence fails and war breaks out in the Pacific, Americans as well as Japanese will pay the price. – Wall Street Journal 

Williams Danvers writes: Harris has her work cut out for her with her Asia trip. The good news is that, as a former senator from California, she understands the importance of ties, especially economic ties, between Asia and the U.S. This will help with the role she plays in developing and implementing the administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy, making her upcoming trip a key Biden foreign policy effort. – The Hill 

Elisabeth Braw writes: By giving their citizens more freedom, Chinese President Xi Jinping (and his Hong Kong frontwoman Carrie Lam) and Lukashenko of Belarus would risk the stability of their regimes. But by refusing to let their peoples go, they risk ending up like Walter Ulbricht: eternally remembered for one despicable thing. – Foreign Policy 


Russia is expelling a BBC correspondent based in Moscow, Russian state television reported, the first time in years that a high-profile Western journalist has been publicly forced out of the country as part of a political dispute. – New York Times 

An explosion on a bus killed two people and injured 17 in the southwestern Russian city of Voronezh on Thursday evening, TASS news agency reported, and counterterrorism officials were coordinating investigations into the blast. – Reuters 

Russia’s defense minister on Friday hailed joint war games with China this week as a sign of increasingly close military cooperation that should expand further. – Defense News 

Eugene Chudnovsky writes: Top line: Russian leaders are clearly paranoid about losing the edge in hypersonic and other modern weaponry to the United States and China. As the competition is growing, so is the number of arrests, making Russian scientists increasingly fearful of their interactions with the West. – Washington Examiner 

Angela Stent writes: In the longer term, Washington should seek to persuade all Black Sea states to comply with existing agreements that assure freedom of navigation and the right of “innocent passage” in territorial waters. Jettisoning these agreements in Crimea would represent a threat to regional security, global trade, and the current world order. – Foreign Policy 


His disavowal of the opposition movement comes as a further psychological blow for its leaders, many of whom have fled Belarus to seek safety in neighboring countries including Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal 

Greece has become the latest European country to raise pressure on aid groups that help asylum seekers, accusing them of involvement in trafficking, as part of its efforts to stem the flow of migrants and refugees who continue to make dangerous journeys to Europe. – Wall Street Journal 

Annalena Baerbock, the Green Party’s candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, wants to tighten German and European trade policy toward China and impose higher tariffs if her party joins the next government. – Bloomberg 

The Taliban are in control of Afghanistan and British and NATO forces will not be returning to fight the insurgents, Britain’s defence minister said on Monday. – Reuters 

Nobody should bilaterally recognise the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday, adding it was clear that there would be a new administration in the country very shortly. – Reuters 

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman spoke with Lithuania’s foreign minister on Friday and reiterated U.S. support for the country in the face of pressure from China over its decision to develop ties with Taiwan, the State Department said. – Reuters 

Denmark and Norway are closing their embassies in Kabul for now and evacuating their staff as the security situation worsens in Afghanistan, the Nordic countries said on Friday. – Reuters 

The EU’s border agency is trialling new high-tech surveillance equipment to detect migrant boats, just as rapid gains by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan have raised the prospect of a surge in people fleeing to Europe. – Reuters 

Switzerland has pulled three development agency workers out of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, the country’s foreign minister said on Monday, and is working hard to evacuate local personnel. – Reuters 

Albania and Kosovo have accepted a U.S. request to temporarily take in Afghan refugees seeking visas to enter the United States, the country two countries said on Sunday. – Reuters 

French President Emmanuel Macron will stay away from a United Nations conference on racism next month because of concerns about anti-Semitism, his office said on Friday. – Reuters 

Afghanistan is spiralling into a failed state and a civil war in which militant groups such as al Qaeda will thrive and likely pose a threat again to the West, Britain’s defence minister said on Friday. – Reuters 

A man named by police as a suspect in the shootings that took place in Plymouth, England, on Thursday has been linked to YouTube videos that promote “incel” culture, according to several reports. – Business Insider 

Lithuania’s president insisted the Baltic state would not back down in its disputes with Belarus and China, arguing it was committed to defending the principles and values of democracy from attack. – Financial Times 

Tadeusz Giczan writes: There are of course valid concerns about this volume of private information in the hands of hackers. The only safeguard is in the hackers’ professed ethics. Cyberpartisans said: “All the data obtained will only be used for deanonymization of regime accomplices, ordinary people have nothing to fear. We have better data protection [than the regime], and after our victory, we will delete everything.” – Center for European Policy Analysis 


More than 1,000 Boko Haram members and their hostages surrendered to the Nigerian government, including two high-school students who were kidnapped seven years ago from the town of Chibok, in what security officials and mediators called a new chapter in Nigeria’s decadelong conflict. – Wall Street Journal 

Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema secured a stunning landslide victory over incumbent Edgar Lungu in Zambia’s presidential election, results showed on Monday. – Reuters 

U.S. President Joe Biden is sending his special envoy for the Horn of Africa to Ethiopia amid international alarm at the escalation of a war that has killed thousands and created a humanitarian crisis in one of the world’s poorest regions. – Reuters 

Leonard Rubenstein and Mulugeta Gebregziabher write: But Abiy has resisted all entreaties. He did not even meet with USAID Administrator Samantha Power when she visited the region in early August. The administration must ratchet up the pressure and end Abiy’s impunity. Secretary of State Antony Blinken must release his department’s findings on war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Tigray. The administration must not allow Ethiopia and its apologists to obstruct referral to mechanisms of international justice. Above all, urgency is needed to save the people of Tigray. – The Hill 

The Americas

The judge investigating the assassination of Haiti’s president stepped down Friday, less than two days after his clerk was killed, throwing the probe into further disarray five weeks after the country’s leader was gunned down in his home. – Wall Street Journal 

The earthquake was the latest calamity to convulse Haiti, which is still living with the aftereffects of a 2010 quake that killed an estimated quarter-million people. Saturday’s quake came about five weeks after the Haitian president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated, leaving a leadership vacuum in a country already grappling with severe poverty and rampant gang violence. – New York Times 

The U.S. Treasury Department said on Friday it was imposing sanctions on two Cuban Ministry of Interior officials and a military unit over the government’s crackdown on protesters last month. – Reuters 

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Mr. Biden said he would use the Magnitsky Act to go after regime human-rights abusers. Yet the White House has stopped short of naming dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel, who called Cuban “revolutionaries” and “communists” to engage in combat with protesters. […]The administration has refused to return to President Obama’s appeasement agenda. But that’s not enough. Passive policy is the same as telling Cubans they’re on their own. – Wall Street Journal 

Latin America

Representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the U.S.-backed opposition launched talks in Mexico City on Friday aimed at restoring democracy and easing a humanitarian crisis in the South American country. – Washington Post 

Venezuelan opposition leader Freddy Guevara was released from prison on Sunday, a month after his arrest and days after the start of talks in Mexico City between the opposition and the government of President Nicolas Maduro. – Reuters 

The British government on Saturday added to the growing condemnation of Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, saying the pair were resorting to authoritarian methods to stifle opposition and free elections later this year. – Reuters 

North America

Canada has promised to resettle more than 20,000 Afghan citizens from groups it considers likely targets of the Taliban, including leading women, rights workers and L.G.B.T.Q. people, as many nations scramble to evacuate their nationals and help Afghans flee. – New York Times 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, betting that his standing has been improved by his government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic while his main opponent has failed to gain traction with voters, called on Sunday a snap federal election for Sept. 20 in a bid to regain a majority in the House of Commons. – Washington Post 

Andy Kessler writes: The opaque days are over. American tech companies need to shred the Communist Party playbook, showing that being open and transparent is democratic compared with authoritarian, big-is-bad Chinese-style antitrust. That is a powerful argument. – Wall Street Journal 

United States

A conference call between members of Congress and the Biden administration’s top diplomatic and military leaders on Afghanistan turned contentious on Sunday, as lawmakers pressed the administration on how intelligence could have failed so badly and how long the military would help hold the Kabul airport. – New York Times 

Afghanistan’s rapid unraveling is already raising grumblings about American credibility, compounding the wounds of the Trump years and reinforcing the idea that America’s backing for its allies is not unlimited. – New York Times 

President Joe Biden long touted his foreign policy credentials as a core asset he’d bring to the Oval Office. And once he was in the White House, he proudly proclaimed “America is back” on the world stage. Instead, chaos and confusion dominated his first major foreign policy decision — the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. – Politico 

Former President Donald Trump Sunday called on President Joe Biden to “resign in disgrace” over his handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal and other issues. – New York Post 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday that the U.S. should start conducting airstrikes against the Taliban and provide support to Afghan forces to stop the insurgent group from capturing the Afghan capital amid the withdrawal of U.S. troops. – The Hill 

The US Department of Defense could be planning to make room for some 30,000 Afghan refugees at US Army garrisons like Fort Bliss in Texas, and Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. – Business Insider 

Michael Rubin writes: “Forever war” sounds scary, but Washington will soon see that defeat by the Taliban and their Pakistani handlers is even worse. In reality, the “forever war” calumny is just Washington spin for containment and deterrence. Ending both is at stake. Biden can say he has ended “forever wars,” but, actually, he has emboldened enemies and ensured far greater, bloodier, and more conflicts will erupt. – Washington Examiner 

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: If reallocating resources makes the difference in those critical competitive races, he may yet be given a pass – at least by Americans – for going lighter on Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and global terrorism. In contrast, if any of these ignored “secondary” problems blow up, it will be a major challenge to his legacy. Meanwhile, Israel is just one of many countries that may be left fending for itself with its local “secondary” challenge – Iran – and the Afghanistan collapse cannot have made that more clear. – Jerusalem Post 


The Department of Homeland Security is considering hiring private companies to analyze public social media for warning signs of extremist violence, spurring debate within the agency over how to monitor for such threats while protecting Americans’ civil liberties. – Wall Street Journal 

President Joe Biden has said he’ll take on hackers’ payment method of choice — cryptocurrency — in the fight against ransomware gangs. But any such effort faces a massive challenge: getting the rest of the world on board. – Politico 

Editorial: As the Trump administration showed, one of the more effective means of defending against cyberattacks is to take the offensive. […]The intended message: If you want to play games in cyberspace, we’re ready to win. Does this more assertive approach work? Well, it certainly bears noting that the most disruptive ransomware attacks have occurred under Biden and not Trump. The incumbent should reconsider his cyberdefense strategy. It is defective. – Washington Examiner 

Mark Galeotti writes: We are conditioned by the high-tech antics of cyber spies’ and intelligence agencies’ eager and early adoption of the latest tools and techniques. But the Berlin case, assuming the charges are proven, is a crucial reminder that human intelligence — humint — remains the most vital of all the so-called “collection disciplines”. – Financial Times 

Judge Paul R. Michel (Ret.) and Matthew J. Dowd write: For every public dollar provided, private sources must invest many more dollars to translate such basic research into products and actually bring them to market. […]Reliable patent protection could encourage other companies to make similar investments. The long-term solution to the chip shortage must, therefore, include improvements in the U.S. patent system to ensure that our country has reliable and secure sources of manufacturing for critically important semiconductor chips. – The Hill 


The U.S. Space Force officially stood up the second of its three field commands Aug. 13, replacing the Space and Missile Systems Center it inherited from the Air Force with the new Space Systems Command. – C4ISRNET 

The U.S. has several options to defend Guam against attack, the director of the Missile Defense Agency said this week, as the House Armed Service Committee wants more details on what exactly will be put in place against different threats and at what cost. – USNI News 

Allison Abbe, Charles D. Allen, Tom Galvin, Michael Hosie and Maurice Sipos write: While we encourage and will continue conducting difficult conversations in the classroom, we caution against expecting culture change to result from these conversations on their own. To that end, we recommend that professional military education and leader development programs provide instruction and practice in managing organizational change and shaping organizational culture as fundamental to addressing personnel challenges. Stand-downs and dialogue are among the first steps, not the last words. – War on the Rocks 

Long War

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is warning of a heightened threat environment leading up to the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. – The Hill 

Fatima Bhutto writes: Though Barack Obama swore closing down the prison would be his first act as president, Guantanamo survived both his terms, as well as the Trump administration (early in the pandemic, Donald Trump supposedly proposed sending Americans with COVID-19 to the prison). […]Those for whom no country will claim responsibility could be transferred to U.S. supermax prisons, allowing President Joe Biden the legroom to sign an executive order formalizing Guantanamo’s closure. It is too early to say whether the administration will be successful. – Foreign Policy 

Nelly Lahoud writes: Washington cannot quite claim victory against al Qaeda and its ilk, which retain the ability to inspire deadly, if small-scale, attacks. The past two decades, however, have made clear just how little jihadi groups can hope to accomplish. They stand a far better chance of achieving eternal life in paradise than of bringing the United States to its knees. – Foreign Affairs