Fdd's overnight brief

August 19, 2021

In The News


The Taliban used gunfire Wednesday to disperse nascent protests against their rule in Afghanistan, killing two people and injuring several more, and continued to block access to Kabul’s international airport after the U.S. said the group had agreed to allow evacuations. – Wall Street Journal  

The Biden administration is set to cut off the Taliban’s access to billions of dollars in critical overseas finance, but some officials warn that the terror-group’s income from drug sales and other illicit activities threatens to undermine Washington’s last-resort pressure campaign. – Wall Street Journal  

Deposed Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country as the Taliban surrounded the capital Kabul, has taken refuge in the United Arab Emirates, the Gulf state said Wednesday. – Wall Street Journal  

The Pentagon’s top leaders on Wednesday sought to defend the military’s planning ahead of a Taliban assault that led to the fall of Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government, saying they are focused for now on securing the Kabul airport and evacuating all American citizens and as many Afghan allies “as possible.” – Washington Post 

Rumbles of resistance to the Taliban’s grip on Afghanistan emerged Wednesday as protests erupted in at least two cities, drawing a violent response from the militants that laid bare the challenges that await as the group attempts to transform itself from an insurgency into a government. – Washington Post 

Intelligence reports presented to President Biden in the final days before the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan this past week failed to predict the imminence of the Afghan government’s collapse, even after their earlier warnings had grown increasingly grim, senior intelligence and defense officials said on Wednesday. – New York Times 

The Taliban celebrated Afghanistan’s Independence Day on Thursday by declaring it had beaten the United States, but challenges to their rule ranging from running the country’s frozen government to potentially facing armed opposition began to emerge. – Associated Press 

Afghanistan may be governed by a ruling council now that the Taliban has taken over, while the Islamist militant movement’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, would likely remain in overall charge, a senior member of the group told Reuters. – Reuters  

As the United States and other Western powers pressed on with the evacuation of their nationals and some Afghans on Thursday, the rest of Afghanistan waited to see whether the nation’s independence day would stir more anti-Taliban protests. – Reuters  

A total of 12 people have been killed in and around the airport in the Afghan capital, Kabul, Taliban and NATO officials said, since the Taliban seized the city on Sunday, triggering a rush of fearful people trying to leave. – Reuters  

The European Union’s foreign policy chief branded developments in Afghanistan “a catastrophe and a nightmare” on Thursday, and said there had been a failure of intelligence to anticipate the Taliban’s return to power there. – Reuters 

The Taliban have promised to improve Afghanistan’s economy, but to do that the new regime will need foreign aid — and there is no guarantee it will get the funds it needs. – Agence France-Presse 

Despite its swift takeover of the government in Afghanistan, the Taliban will not have access to most of the nation’s cash and gold stocks, while the IMF announced it won’t provide aid. – Agence France-Presse 

The Taliban’s senior leadership includes many Mujahideen fighters who were once trained by the U.S. during the Cold War to battle against the invading Soviet Union forces in the 1980s. – Bloomberg  

President Joe Biden said U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan until all Americans are able to leave the country — even if it takes longer than his Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw. – Bloomberg  

The Biden administration is about to face a grilling from both the House and Senate over the bungled U.S. exit from Afghanistan, where the Taliban’s quick advances caught key officials off guard. – The Hill  

The U.S. doesn’t have enough troops in Kabul to secure safe passage for tens of thousands of Americans and Afghan allies seeking to leave the country, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a press conference on Wednesday. – USNI News 

Editorial: On Tuesday, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) received and forwarded to Secretary of State Antony Blinken an appeal from the National Association of Women Judges on behalf of 250 Afghan women judges, trained by Americans and other Western countries, some of whom sentenced Taliban fighters to prison for murder or other crimes. These criminals have just been released by the Taliban. The judges have thus joined the ranks of the fearful. This country must make time for all of them. – Washington Post 

Editorial: The debacle of the Afghan pullout could yet have some positive impact if it prompts more serious and co-ordinated efforts by the EU and European capitals to take responsibility for the continent’s defence. […]But the US commitment has long been the glue holding European security together. If this begins to dissolve, only vigorous efforts by Europeans themselves will prevent the whole edifice from being severely weakened. – Financial Times 

John Lipsky and William F. Wechsler write: It was possible, though difficult due to sanctions, that the Taliban could have found eager partners in Russia and China to help them convert the claims to cash after they are allocated on Aug. 23. […]The IMF is only the tip of the spear—if successful, the U.S. could push the United Nations to follow suit at next month’s General Assembly meeting and stop the Taliban from getting the recognition they desperately seek. – Wall Street Journal  

Daniel Henninger writes: Soon, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will join the sovereign nations of Iran, North Korea, Syria, China and Russia, plus the Islamic terror groups in northern Africa that comprise a rough network of staging grounds, financing, transit points, shell companies and cyber communications used daily to undermine the interests of the United States, and worse. – Wall Street Journal 

David Ignatius writes: A risk about which he had ample warning. Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the last commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, is said to have warned his colleagues and Biden that if the final 2,500 American troops were withdrawn: “It’s going to be bad, and it’s going to be fast.” Of all the predictions over the past two decades, that one, tragically, may have been the most prescient. – Washington Post 

Karen Tumulty writes: Biden’s expertise in foreign policy was supposed to be one of his chief selling points as president. “I’ve worked on these issues as long as anyone,” he said Monday, and “I came to understand firsthand what was and was not possible in Afghanistan.” Yet he and his administration’s top officials express surprise at how things have unfolded. What is at question — now and going forward — is not Biden’s experience, but his judgment. – Washington Post 

Josh Rogin writes: There will be plenty of time later for post-mortem reviews of how the withdrawal and the evacuation were bungled so badly and who is to blame. Right now, the patient is still on the operating table. The Biden administration can potentially save thousands of lives if it can pull off what will surely be a herculean effort to mount a massive airlift in a crazy environment. But this will take more than two weeks. Biden must admit that and then act accordingly. Time is of the essence. – Washington Post 

Ahmad Massoud writes: America and its democratic allies do not just have the fight against terrorism in common with Afghans. We now have a long history made up of shared ideals and struggles. There is still much that you can do to aid the cause of freedom. You are our only remaining hope. – Washington Post 

Marc A. Thiessen writes: Biden’s handling of Afghanistan reminds me, in many ways, of a husband who ruins his marriage and gets thrown out of the house. His wife decides to give him a second chance — but he blows it by making the same stupid mistakes. And the reality sets in: He is a two-time loser for a reason. If he had been capable of the humility and introspection required not to repeat his mistakes, he probably would not have made them in the first place. Like the husband who blew up his marriage, Biden is a two-time loser for a reason. – Washington Post 

Charles Lane writes: The Biden administration must enable Afghans who want to leave to identify themselves to the United States and — somehow — open a safe corridor for them between the city and the airport. – Washington Post 

Eltaf Najafizada and Archana Chaudhary write: If anyone was supposed to know how to fix Afghanistan, it was Ashraf Ghani. […]In many ways, Ghani’s swift downfall reflects the broader failures of the U.S. to impose a government on Afghanistan that had buy-in from a range of competing power brokers with a long history of fighting on the battlefield rather than at the ballot box. – Bloomberg  

Leonid Bershidsky writes: The Russian state propagandists assume that the Afghans — and the Russians, Ukrainians, Balts, etc. — who ally themselves with American or European institutions — do that only because they’re certain theirs is the winning side. That’s a flawed assumption. These people play to win, but they also know what they’re in for if they lose. No one who bets on change is risk-averse or risk-ignorant. Yes, the West should help them as much as it can, and take in as many of them as necessary — but not because of any binding promise. – Bloomberg  

Erol Yayboke writes: The U.S. cannot shoulder the responsibility of response alone; but it can lead by example. Humanitarian needs will stretch into the medium and, in some cases, long term. Instead of ten one-year response plans over the next decade, the international community should develop a long-term strategy for how the world – with U.S. leadership – will provide a future to displaced Afghans. – Defense One   

Peter Wehner writes: But Biden decided to do in Afghanistan what he decided to do in Iraq: cut the cord because he was determined to cut the cord, because he thinks he knows better, not because circumstances on the ground dictated that it be done. The result is a human-rights catastrophe. – The Atlantic 

Saskia Brechenmacher, Rudra Chaudhuri, Ryan Crocker, Judy Dempsey, H. A. Hellyer, Aaron David Miller, Karim Sadjadpour, James Schwemlein, Aqil Shah, Dmitri Trenin, and Stephen Wertheim write: The United States still faces two major problems in Afghanistan. The first is how to rescue vulnerable Afghans who wish to leave their country and settle in the United States or elsewhere. The second is how to drive a wedge between Afghanistan’s new government and al-Qaeda so as to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States. These are significant challenges, though they do not diminish the decision to withdraw. – Carnegie Endowment For International Peace 

Christine Rosen writes: Ignore the Biden Administration’s feel-good rhetoric and “firmly-worded statements.” No one in the administration can claim ignorance of the Taliban’s previous treatment of women. And anyone who claims we should give the Taliban the benefit of the doubt now is either a fool or a monster. – Commentary Magazine  


Iran has stressed its nuclear activities are peaceful and conform to safeguard obligations after the UN nuclear watchdog said it has established a process to accelerate production of highly enriched uranium. – Agence France-Presse 

Iran’s navy has a new head, according to the country’s IRNA news agency, which announced that Adm. Shahram Irani would be the new navy chief. Irani had previously been a high-level army and navy officer. – Jerusalem Post 

Former top IAEA official Olli Heinonen said on Tuesday that new Iranian nuclear violations and revelations could escalate the crisis between the Islamic Republic, the US and the world powers. – Jerusalem Post 

While the US was planning to leave Afghanistan – agreeing to a deal with the Taliban and abandoning the Afghan government, cutting off funding and contracts and leaving military posts in the dead of night – Iran was angling for a more inclusive Afghanistan. – Jerusalem Post 

A top Iranian official was mocked on Twitter by an Israeli official on Wednesday after the Iranian posted a tweet in inept Hebrew that claimed Israel will suffer the same fate as the US in Afghanistan. – Algemeiner 

Shelly Kittleson writes: Whether this backing is intended to ensure much-needed cross-border water supply, for religious reasons, or simply as a way to get a government seen as a U.S. ally out of the way, Iran seems to believe it will benefit from the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan. – Foreign Policy 

Farzin Nadimi writes: Well before the recent public rebranding, Iran was apparently working behind the scenes for months to reap benefits from the final episode of the long war, including assurances about the safety of Shia Muslim co-religionists in Afghanistan. […]At the same time, there are logical reasons to expect an Iranian-Taliban alliance, even one limited to the tactical level. After all, Shia-Sunni differences have not stopped Iran from forming close relations with similar groups (e.g., Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad), so long as they share common enemies. – Washington Institute  


Turkey-backed Syrian forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters shelled one another’s positions in northern Syria on Wednesday, leaving at least five people dead and more than a dozen wounded, the Kurdish side and a war monitor reported. – Associated Press 

Israel struck a military outpost near Quneitra late Tuesday night, Syrian media reported. The state-run SANA news agency said that two missiles were fired in the strike “west of the town of Hadr in the northern Quneitra countryside.” – Jerusalem Post 

The Israel Defense Forces reportedly dropped threatening pamphlets in southern Syria on Wednesday, warning Syrian soldiers to stop cooperating with Hezbollah, hours after reportedly conducting twin missile strikes on a Syrian military base and an outpost controlled by the Lebanese terror group. – Times of Israel 


Fearing a new refugee crisis, Turkey is sending soldiers to reinforce its border with Iran in order to stop a potential influx of Afghans fleeing the Taliban insurgency. – Associated Press 

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey still aims to maintain security at Kabul airport, after Taliban fighters took control of Afghanistan’s capital. – Reuters 

Giulio Meotti writes: Finally, it is certainly no coincidence that Erdogan has offered to take charge of the security of the Kabul airport and that the only embassy of a NATO member country left open in Kabul in these terrible hours is the Turkish one. There is a snake within NATO that, from Kabul to the Armenian hills, projects its Islamic hegemony. – Arutz Sheva 


Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will meet with President Biden at the White House on Aug. 26, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. The two leaders will discuss Iran, among other issues, Ms. Psaki said. – Wall Street Journal  

Egypt’s intelligence chief on Wednesday paid a rare visit to Israel to discuss the cease-fire deal between Israel and the Hamas militant group that followed an 11-day war in May, Israel announced. – Associated Press 

Taliban international media spokesman Suhail Shaheen denied Monday that the organization gave an interview to Israeli media, after an interview was broadcast on Israel’s KAN station. – Jerusalem Post 

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected an offer from then-US secretary of state John Kerry to visit Afghanistan as a model for a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Netanyahu wrote on Facebook on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post 

Palestinian factions in Gaza said on Wednesday that they were prepared to “escalate” hostilities against Israel unless restrictions on the enclave were loosened and announced a protest Saturday near the border fence. – Times of Israel 

The Palestinian militant groups in Gaza have decided to resume the protests at the border fence with Israel, even as an Egyptian envoy was meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to discuss the reconstruction of the Strip and the possibility of a long-term truce. – Haaretz 

Lahav Harkov writes: When Bennett heads to the White House – whenever it will be – he will be encountering a US president with weaker levers of pressure and less credibility than it had just a week ago in regard to the Middle East. But as one source close to Bennett posited, he may also find that Biden is more willing to take Bennett’s and Israel’s regional allies’ positions more seriously, as the US seeks to reduce engagement in the region while avoiding a repeat of its blunders. – Jerusalem Post 

Herb Keinon writes: The timing of the invitation just as the Taliban is taking over Afghanistan is surely not coincidental. When the two leaders do sit down, it’s a sure bet that – in addition to discussing Gaza – they will focus on what they need to learn and the joint policies they need to implement following the dismal developments in Afghanistan. And that is a type of discussion Bennett is certain to have with a number of other Arab leaders – both discreetly and out in the open – over the next few weeks. – Jerusalem Post 


A shipment of fuel oil will sail from Iran to Lebanon within hours and more will follow, Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah said on Thursday, telling the United States and Israel the ship would be considered Lebanese territory as soon as it sails. – Reuters  

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group on Tuesday called the conduct of the United States during the Taliban’s conquest of Afghanistan “the moral downfall of America.” – Agence France-Presse 

Families laid to rest Wednesday victims of a fuel tank blast that killed at least 28 people in northern Lebanon amid anger and sorrow over the crisis-hit country’s latest tragedy. – Agence France-Presse 

Gulf States

The death toll in a Turkish air raid on a clinic in Iraq’s Sinjar province has risen to eight, local officials said Wednesday, a day after the attack. Turkey regularly targets northwest Iraq in operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara considers a terrorist organisation. – Agence France-Presse 

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud discussed in a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken the strategic relations between the two countries and developments in Afghanistan, Saudi state news agency said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Regional rivals Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have made progress in improving relations, which could lead to significant UAE investment in Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday after a rare meeting with a senior UAE official. – Reuters 

Middle East & North Africa

Across the Middle East, the Taliban’s rapid seizure of power in Afghanistan has been seen by some as a signal that players in the region can no longer depend on diminishing U.S. power. – Reuters  

Algeria on Wednesday blamed devastating wildfires this month on two groups it recently designated as terrorist organisations, adding that one of them was backed by Morocco and Israel. – Reuters 

The National Security Council announced on Wednesday evening that the level of the threat of terrorism on the shores of the Sinai Peninsula and Sharm el-Sheikh has been downgraded from level 1 to level 3. – Arutz Sheva 

Michael Tanchum writes: One of the most consequential changes in the Middle East’s geopolitical map is happening at the water’s edge. […]The international competition to rebuild Beirut’s port is one key puzzle piece in this larger process that is reconfiguring the Levant’s maritime commercial architecture and, as a consequence, the geopolitical contours of the Middle East. – Middle East Institute  

Korean Peninsula

A new report documenting North Korean violations of religious freedoms was released on Wednesday by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). – Jerusalem Post 

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan underscores the need for South Korea to quickly secure wartime operational control of its troops from the United States, a leader of the ruling Democratic Party said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Clint Work writes: Withdrawing U.S. forces from South Korea or acting as if you might (as Trump repeatedly did) undermines stability and the negotiating process. But if that process consists of a genuine effort to establish a new relationship and if it’s done with steady intention and a cohesive alliance, it could eventually lead to a place where removing U.S. forces from Korea doesn’t seem so unimaginable. It may very well lead to a place where historic developments overpower historical inertia. – Foreign Policy 


As for the WHO-backed probe into the coronavirus’s origins? Beijing told foreign diplomats last week that the March report calling a lab leak unlikely must be “respected,” while U.S. intelligence is nearing the end of a 90-day deadline set by President Biden to reveal more about the virus’s origin. – Washington Post 

For China’s leaders, the chaotic scenes unfolding in Afghanistan have served as stinging vindication of their hostility to American might. “The last dusk of empire,” China’s official news agency said. The Chinese foreign ministry called it a lesson in “reckless military adventures.” – New York Times 

China’s President Xi Jinping on Wednesday spoke with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Chinese state television said. China will unswervingly develop friendly relations with Iran and the two sides should continue to support each other on issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns, Xi was quoted by the state television. – Reuters  

Dale Aluf and Aaron Schorr write: Attempting to balance Washington and Beijing without a clear strategy runs the risk of a high-stakes miscalculation which could jeopardize Israel’s interests and further restrict room to maneuver. The publication of such a strategy would send both powers an unambiguous message regarding Israel’s priorities, demonstrating that the binary choice is not one at all. – Jerusalem Post 

Derek Scissors writes: Biden has followed Trump in barely responding to China’s role in the pandemic. Not only has China gone unpunished for aggressive deception and possible negligence, the US has failed for 18 months and counting to take obvious actions to protect the economy regarding supply chains. […]Afghanistan will understandably be the focus for weeks, if not more. But the longer the Biden administration waits on China, the less it can do. And if too much time goes by, doing less might start to look like the goal. – American Enterprise Institute  

Walter Lohman writes: The clock is running out on meaningful congressional action this year. But it’s not yet impossible to pass a solid, comprehensive bill addressing the China challenge. For that to happen, lawmakers will have to look beyond narrow constituent interests. […]Barring such an approach, Congress will have to wait another couple of years to pass something real on China. Given current polling data, the RSC package could very well be the starting point for the new debate. That would be a positive thing. – Heritage Foundation  

Michael Cunningham writes: U.S. policymaking, on the other hand, appears to take little account of China’s domestic politics. […]If history is an accurate guide, China will likely become even more aggressive internationally in Xi’s third term. This will make it more important than ever that U.S. policymakers understand the domestic political environment and the interests and concerns driving Beijing’s decisionmakers. – Heritage Foundation  

South Asia

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Emir of Qatar and the head of the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Tuesday evening, her spokesman said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

India has evacuated its ambassador and all other diplomats from Afghanistan, the foreign ministry said. – BBC 

The tricolour flag of the Republic of Afghanistan has been replaced with the white flag of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan, and in place of Afghan border security forces now stand gun-holding bearded Taliban militants. They are now in control of Torkham – the busiest crossing with Pakistan. – BBC 

Raja Mohan writes: It was widely assumed that India’s strategy of multi-alignment […]would survive major regional and global changes. But the growing security challenges from China have rendered that assumption moot and nudged India closer than ever before to the United States. The latest developments in Afghanistan could intensify Sino-Indian contradictions, consolidate Indian-U.S. relations, and produce greater distance between India and Russia—quickening the pace of the transformation of India’s great-power relationships that was already underway. –Foreign Policy


Four student union leaders at the University of Hong Kong were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of “advocating terrorism” after they had held a moment of silence for a man who stabbed a police officer and then killed himself. – New York Times 

A Hong Kong pro-democracy activist, who had been detained in mainland China after trying to flee the city by boat, was found guilty on Thursday of conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country in a national security case. – Reuters 

Malaysian king Al-Sultan Abdullah’s efforts to end the country’s long-running political instability could transform the traditionally ceremonial monarchy revered for being above politics in the Southeast Asian nation, say analysts. – Reuters  

Former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob looked set to form the next government after gaining a parliamentary majority from the same coalition that collapsed earlier this week, media and lawmakers said on Thursday. – Reuters  

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, facing criticism over plans to evacuate citizens and some Afghans from Kabul, said adverse weather expected in the coming days threatens to delay rescue flights from Afghanistan. – Reuters  

The United Kingdom called Tuesday for an immediate and sustained pause in clashes and unrest in Myanmar to allow vaccinations as an intense COVID-19 surge is ravaging the country. – Associated Press 

As tens of thousands flee Hong Kong for a new life in the U.K., they’re confronting the risk that they will be forced to leave behind their retirement savings as China intensifies its crackdown on the city’s freedoms. – Bloomberg 


When the Taliban swept over Afghanistan, Russia was ready for the rapid developments after working methodically for years to lay the groundwork for relations with the group that it still officially considers a terrorist organization. – Associated Press 

The Taliban’s takeover in 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. – Financial Times 

Russia, with its array of hard-to-detect cruise missiles and advanced submarines, poses the primary military threat to the American homeland today, the commander of U.S. Northern Command said Tuesday. – USNI News 

On Monday, armed Taliban forces “took under guard” the perimeter around the Russian embassy, a spacious autonomous camp in the outskirts of Kabul. The following day, Russian Ambassador Dmitry Zhirnov had “a positive and constructive” meeting with representatives of the banned Russian Taliban, later confirming that the movement’s oldest representatives promised security for Russian diplomats in Afghanistan. One thing was made clear: Russia is now trusting the Taliban with the lives of its own people. – The Daily Beast 

Anna Borshchevskaya writes: Moscow’s current attitude towards Afghanistan remains complex but ultimately highlights anti-American priorities. Indeed, this attitude reflects a long history of simultaneously coveting Western assistance and resenting Western primacy. […]Ultimately, however, Moscow is nothing if not cynical. Beyond savoring American defeat, Putin will focus on making sure whatever happens does not affect Kremlin interests—and makes him look good. – Washington Institute  


It was not the U.S. Congress that returned from its August holiday to gnash its teeth over intelligence failures and military collapse in Afghanistan. Instead, it was the British Parliament, which was recalled for a remarkable one-day session on Wednesday, to hear lawmakers give heartfelt speeches honoring fallen soldiers and engage in hours of finger-pointing over what went so wrong. – Washington Post 

Britain is unable to evacuate unaccompanied children from Afghanistan, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Thursday when asked about footage which showed a young child being handed over a wall to Western soldiers at Kabul airport. – Reuters  

British lawmakers vented their anger on Wednesday at Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. President Joe Biden over the collapse of Afghanistan into Taliban hands, calling it a failure of intelligence, leadership and moral duty. – Reuters  

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is working to organise a summit of the Group of 20 major economies on the situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover at the weekend, newspapers La Repubblica and Il Messaggero said on Thursday. – Reuters  

Poland has evacuated around 50 people from Afghanistan, a deputy foreign minister said on Wednesday, part of an international effort to get diplomats and other civilians out of the country after Taliban insurgents seized the capital. – Reuters 

The European Union on Wednesday condemned what it called Belarus’s “aggressive behavior” in organizing illegal border crossings with migrants into Latvia, Lithuania and Poland with the aim of destabilizing the 27-nation bloc. – Associated Press 

Editorial: Poland’s bald attempt to heap another injustice on the millions killed in the Holocaust on its soil is nothing short of outrageous. As Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Hayat astutely said this week, “This story is absolutely not about money. It’s about memory and responsibility.” – Jerusalem Post 

Philip Stephens writes: The continent’s leaders spent at most a millisecond considering how they might prop up the Afghan government without the Americans. Serious deliberation may well have concluded there was nothing to be done, but at least it would have marked a small step away from fatalistic dependency. One day Europe will have to admit that the old order has passed, and understand that in an era of great power competition relationships with allies as well as adversaries are going to get a lot rougher. – Financial Times 

Robert Shrimsley writes: This is a true mission for Britain in the world but if Johnson seeks that role he will have to rethink his attitude to the value of soft power and European allies. The alternative is a UK left bootless in search of a global footprint. – Financial Times 


Dozens of people were killed in northern Burkina Faso on Wednesday when Islamist militants raided a civilian convoy that was being escorted by military police, the latest in a spate of attacks across West Africa’s Sahel region this month. – Reuters 

Photographs of a visit by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to an airport in the northeastern province of Afar suggest his country’s military has acquired unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Iran to use against the rebel Tigray Defence Force (TDF). – Janes 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday backed a peaceful resolution for the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia that has displaced tens of thousands and left millions hungry. He also said Turkey was willing to mediate between Ethiopia and Sudan to resolve a separate border dispute. – Associated Press 

Small children are among those held amid a new wave of detentions of ethnic Tigrayans suspected of supporting Tigray forces in Ethiopia’s growing war, one detainee says, while witnesses and a human rights watchdog describe fresh disappearances in recent weeks. – Associated Press 

Gunmen in Nigeria abducted nine students on their way home from an Islamic school in the country’s northwest, two days after a mass school abduction took place in a neighboring state, police said Thursday. – Associated Press 

The Americas

Cuba introduced tighter controls on the use of social media this week, including a ban on publications that might damage “the country’s prestige,” angering many citizens and international rights activists. – Reuters  

Chinese Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s fight in a Canadian court against extradition to the United States to face fraud and conspiracy charges wrapped up on Wednesday after nearly 1,000 days of legal wranglings and diplomatic brawls. – Agence France-Presse 

Politicians in Canada have roundly condemned the antisemitic vandalism of election posters in Montreal promoting two Jewish candidates ahead of the Sept. 20 snap general election called last Sunday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. – Algemeiner 


Dozens of pro-Taliban accounts that had sprung up on Twitter in recent days then shared the five videos. Within 24 hours, they had together racked up more than half a million views. – New York Times 

Facebook has reaffirmed its ban on Taliban-related accounts, as have the Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Instagram, even as the group engages in a publicity campaign to persuade Afghans and the rest of the world that they can be just and competent rulers. – New York Times 

Chinese internet platforms must crack down on the spread of online rumours and guard their “fields of responsibility”, state media outlet the People’s Daily wrote in a commentary published Thursday. – Reuters  

U.S. Census Bureau computer servers were targeted during a cyberattack last year, but the hackers’ attempts to retain access to the system were unsuccessful, according to a watchdog report released Wednesday. – The Hill 


Military leaders in Canada and the United States plan to work together to modernize the North American Aerospace Defense Command, jointly investing in new sensing and command and control capabilities to protect the continent from new ballistic missile threats. – C4ISRNET 

The U.S. Army wants to develop a high-altitude intelligence, cyber and electronic warfare sensor that can fly above enemy territory to provide data and potentially jamming or disruption capability. – C4ISRNET 

The U.S. Army has worked to rebuild its electronic warfare arsenal in recent years, growing new forces to operate it. There are two critical challenges ahead as the Army looks to maintain or, in some cases, gain parity with adversaries: delivering systems and soldiers on time and affording its plans. – C4ISRNET 

Once the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s airfield in Kandahar on Friday, it didn’t take long for photos to appear on social media showing Taliban fighters posing with military helicopters such as U.S.-made Black Hawks and Soviet-made Mi-17s. – Defense News 

Patty-Jane Geller writes: In that process, Biden and his Pentagon can demonstrate leadership in the face of China’s strategic breakout. By aligning our nuclear forces according to the threat, he an show the world the U.S. commitment to defend our country, our allies, and the Western-led world order. Only time will tell if this administration is willing to address the 21st-century threats head-on by giving America the credible deterrent needed to secure our safety in a three-peer-power world. – Heritage Foundation  

Long War

Roy Gutman writes: The Taliban triumph in Afghanistan has given a new lease on life to the world’s Islamic extremists, and neighbors far and near including Russia and China had better watch out. Osama bin Laden wasn’t the only jihadist to find sanctuary in Afghanistan and use it as a base for attacks when the Taliban last held power from 1996 to 2001. From China to Chechnya and throughout the Arab world, jihadists came for military training and combat as the Taliban fought its internal rivals. – Washington Institute  

Aaron Y. Zelin writes: Many elements of the jihadist movement—especially individuals affiliated with AQ networks or HTS—have expressed joy over the Taliban’s swift takeover, viewing it as confirmation that their patience and ideological steadfastness will bring them favor in God’s eyes. […]Either way, the return of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has reinvigorated AQ cadres and given HTS a model to follow in Syria. – Washington Institute  

Brahma Chellaney writes: When the Taliban was previously in power, from 1996 to 2001, its brutal record, including destroying historic and cultural artifacts, evoked some of the horrors perpetrated by Cambodia’s China-backed ultra-communist Khmer Rouge between 1975 and1979. The Taliban’s reestablishment of a jihadist, theocratic dictatorship in Kabul will likely destabilize the region and come to haunt U.S. security. – The Hill 

Charles Fairbanks writes: There have been a handful of jihadist states over the last half century, including the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic State caliphate, the latter now destroyed at great cost. […]The hope to conciliate newly triumphant extremism was exactly the hope some officials felt with the Islamic Revolution in Iran and with Hamas. – Hudson Institute