Fdd's overnight brief

August 20, 2021

In The News


An internal State Department memo last month warned top agency officials of the potential collapse of Kabul soon after the U.S.’s Aug. 31 troop withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan, according to a U.S. official and a person familiar with the document. – Wall Street Journal 

Afghanistan’s economy faces calamity in the aftermath of the Taliban capture of Kabul, with the United States freezing the country’s financial reserves, residents unable to withdraw their money from bank accounts and billions of dollars of international aid put on hold. – Washington Post 

The Taliban are consolidating control of Afghanistan, 20 years after U.S.-led forces ousted them from power. The return of the Islamist fundamentalist group has been brewing for years, but its advance accelerated rapidly after the U.S. set a deadline of Aug. 31 to pull out troops and began withdrawing air support for the now-fallen Afghan government’s forces. – Wall Street Journal  

The Biden administration is under pressure to expand its Afghanistan evacuation efforts beyond Kabul airport after European forces crossed Taliban lines and entered the city to rescue civilians. Access to the airport has been heavily restricted by Taliban fighters who have beat people trying to flee the country. – Washington Post 

The Biden White House apparently failed to coordinate evacuation efforts with the government of the United Kingdom for more than a day despite repeated attempts by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office to contact President Joe Biden after the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul. – Washington Examiner  

The Taliban have begun rounding up Afghans on a blacklist of people they believe have worked in key roles with the previous Afghan administration or with U.S.-led forces that supported it, according to a report by a Norwegian intelligence group. – Reuters  

More than 2,000 Marines are on the ground at Hamid Karzai International Airport as of Thursday, helping to process and evacuate Americans and Afghans while the Taliban’s grip on Kabul tightens around them. – Defense One 

In July and August 2021, the Taliban’s offensive brought about the fall of the Afghan government and netted the group control over thirty-three of the nation’s thirty-four provinces. The last remaining province, Panjshir, has been claimed by the “National Resistance Front of Afghanistan,” led by local commander Ahmad Massoud and former Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who declared himself Afghanistan’s interim president, following the departure of Ashraf Ghani to the United Arab Emirates. – The National Interest  

The United States on Thursday saluted Albania, Canada, Chile, Mexico and Uganda for agreeing to take in Afghans being evacuated in a major airlift after the Taliban victory. – Agence France-Presse 

Department of Defense generals have known since 2005 that the Afghan military and National Police were not mentally capable of defending their nation without the backbone of the United States, said a special operations general who was involved in advisement and training. – Washington Examiner  

A phone call that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was advised to make but which was given to a junior minister to handle did not happen, it has emerged. The government had said the call to get help evacuating interpreters from Afghanistan had been delegated as Mr Raab was busy on other calls. – BBC 

A Taliban spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on accusations that it has harassed journalists, and in particular women in the profession. Several media watchdogs have also reported incidents of Afghan journalists being beaten, harassed or raided at their homes in recent days. – Reuters  

Billions of dollars of U.S. weapons are now in the hands of the Taliban following the quick collapse of Afghan security forces that were trained to use the military equipment. – The Hill 

Editorial: The chaos in Kabul will forever stain President Biden’s legacy, but he’s not the only one who is harming America’s reputation for constancy and honor. See the immigration restrictionists calling for the betrayal of U.S. allies in their moment of great need. […]Anyone who worked with the U.S. now faces such a threat from the Taliban if he remains in Afghanistan. – Wall Street Journal  

Editorial: President Biden must be held accountable for failing to prepare an orderly evacuation of vulnerable civilians as he withdrew U.S. troops from Afghanistan. What matters most for now, though, is to evacuate everyone at risk who wants to go: U.S. citizens and permanent residents, allied-country nationals, Afghans who worked with the U.S. government, and U.S. contractors and Afghans who worked as journalists, civil society activists, or public officials. – Washington Post 

Editorial: Abandoning loyal Afghan allies to their fate will haunt future U.S. interventions around the world. Friends have been snubbed. Rival powers will take heart. Terror groups that were always going to be hard to target from afar are now set to grow bigger and faster than before. Recovering from this debacle will require long, painstaking effort. – Bloomberg  

Lindsey Graham and Jack Keane write: As the Taliban gains control of Afghanistan again, and the atrocities of their regime come to light, the U.S. must act. We cannot ignore the threat a Taliban government poses to our national security; doing so puts us at risk of another 9/11-type attack. We cannot rewrite the past but we have options to go forward. We must not miss this opportunity. – Wall Street Journal  

Amber Phillips writes: The Biden administration strongly denies politics played a role. “We would never let the prospect of bad-faith criticism from the same people who orchestrated the Muslim [immigration] ban and decimated America’s refugee pipeline keep us from keeping faith with our Afghan partners,” a senior administration official told my colleagues. But until the administration gives clearer answers on why it failed to get Afghan allies out sooner, suspicions will abound — and not just among their political foes. – Washington Post 

Catherine Rampell writes: Biden calls himself pro-immigrant. His appointees to senior immigration posts have generally been excellent. And unlike his openly xenophobic predecessor, Biden speaks warmly of newcomers and their contributions to this country. But such words are meaningless if he still caves to the bigots when it matters. – Washington Post 

Elliot Ackerman writes: Afghanistan is not my war. It’s our war. As much as we’ve heard about Afghans giving up the fight, we should not forget who was the first to leave the battlefield: It was us. […]And we weren’t fighting only the Taliban in Afghanistan. We were also fighting their Pakistani and Iranian proxies who armed and trained them, as well as the interests of the Chinese and the Russians who in coming days will surely be among the first nations to recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. – Washington Post 

Peggy Noonan writes: Mr. Biden, focus. Don’t be diffident and fatalistic, don’t be equivocal, don’t be forced by events. Don’t make the media and the military drag you to this decision. Take authority. This story is not going away. – Wall Street Journal  

Amber Phillips writes: Six in 10 Americans say fighting Afghanistan wasn’t worth it, according to a new AP-NORC survey. That’s in line with the number of Americans who say fighting in the less-popular war, Iraq, wasn’t worth it. And that is welcome news for Biden, who is likely hoping Americans give him a pass on how he handled the withdrawal because they wanted out, too. – Washington Post 

Michael Rubin writes: If thousands of Americans are left behind in Kabul—a scenario which men like Sullivan seem willing to let occur—they effectively become hostages. The Taliban may be disorganized now but they are slowly consolidating their control. If the White House and State Department hope that order will bring reasoned dialogue, they are foolish. As the Taliban solidify their grip on the country, they will begin to consider the Westerners left behind as hostages over which they can bargain to further America’s humiliation. – 19fortyfive 

Bobby Ghosh writes: The infrastructure requirements for extracting Afghanistan’s mineral wealth are huge: The country is severely lacking in transportation networks, for instance. Getting the minerals out of the ground and into China would require investments of a magnitude larger than the Mes Aynak project. Chinese investors have other, safer places to put down that kind of money. – Bloomberg  

Karlyn Bowman and Samantha Goldstein write: Doubts about President Biden’s stewardship of foreign affairs have been raised by the events in Afghanistan. Still, the new polls tell us little about how recent events will affect his presidency in the long term or the 2022 elections in the short run. Sadly, we know something about how the Taliban’s advance will likely affect the Afghan people. – American Enterprise Institute  

Matthew P. Funaiole and Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. write: Earlier this week, CSIS reported that groups of civilians had amassed on the airport’s tarmac and along the runway, but new imagery reveals that these areas are now mostly empty. Crowds remain outside the airport, where the Taliban appear to control the nearby roads and airport entrances. Images and videos circulating on social media suggest that the Taliban are seeking, at times violently, to disperse these crowds and prevent further individuals from entering the airport. – Center for Strategic and International Studies  

Thomas Spoehr writes: Americans have eyes. They can see the events as they unfold in real time on TV. They intuitively can tell when they are not getting the full story. This week, a profound sadness has gripped the nation as we watched America abandoning a country and the people that stood next to the U.S. during tough times. When faced with a disaster like we saw this week, they don’t want excuses, finger-pointing, or half-truths. – The Daily Signal  

Megan A. Stewart writes: To summarize, I make no claims about whether the U.S. should have withdrawn, or the quality of the implementation thereof. Rather, as the U.S. has been caught flatfooted as the Taliban pushed forward and the situation on the ground changes routinely, it is useful to think through how violence might emerge and in what ways, and to anticipate these potential outcomes accordingly. – Middle East Institute 

Doug Wilson and Matt Zeller write: Over the past twenty years, Americans – including those opposed to our involvement in Afghanistan – have wondered how they could honor their friends and neighbors, sons and daughters, husbands and wives who served in uniform. Over the past week, we have wondered how we can direct our anger and frustration into efforts that truly reflect our values. Now, there are ways we can do both. Americans from all walks of life can follow the Sacramento example and live the values our fellow citizens fought for on the battlefield. – Defense One 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: That’s how America wages war these days. It doesn’t even tell its partners, allies, or friends of decades what it is doing. The imperial arrogance of fighting in a country for 20 years and leaving like thieves in the night doesn’t seem to be shameful to US officials, but is rather a normal course of policy. – Jerusalem Post 

Alex J. Rouhandeh writes: The Biden administration recently froze billions of dollars in Afghan currency reserves held in U.S. bank accounts which could further squeeze the country’s already fragile economy. It remains to be seen if further sanctions will be applied. If these sanctions are put in place and the situation worsens, the IRC will act. – Newsweek 

Tim Culpan writes: As the U.S. went deeper into its second decade of occupation, the Taliban kept up a steady drumbeat of messaging across all mediums, targeting local Afghan forces and overseas governments. The aim was to create the belief that the movement’s ascendancy was inevitable and resistance futile. The perception helped bring U.S. administrations to the table and may have fed the collapse of the military. – Bloomberg  


The speed of the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan surprised even some of its supporters and will force Iran to find a delicate balance if it is to build on the influence it has worked decades to build there. – Wall Street Journal  

Columns of Afghan soldiers in armored vehicles and pickup trucks sped through the desert to reach Iran. Military pilots flew low and fast to the safety of Uzbekistan’s mountains. – New York Times 

The foreign ministries of Germany, France and Britain on Thursday expressed “grave concern” over the latest report by the UN’s nuclear watchdog that said Iran continues to produce uranium metal, which can be used in the production of a nuclear bomb. – Associated Press 

Editorial: A high-ranking Iranian official was mocked on social media on Wednesday after posting a purportedly threatening tweet in incorrect and poorly translated Hebrew. Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council,  threatened Israel on Twitter, saying that Israel will be humiliatingly expelled from the West Bank just like the US in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. – Jerusalem Post 

Masih Alinejad writes: Yes, the Taliban has indeed changed: It has become more sophisticated at using Western media to advance its agenda. The reality in the streets of Kabul tells a different story. The Taliban is already covering up pictures of women from billboards and posters. Soon, women will be erased from the public sphere. We saw the start of this movie in Iran 42 years ago, and it’s still going on. – Washington Post 


Loud explosions shook the Syrian capital late on Thursday as state media reported Israeli airstrikes around Damascus. – Associated Press 

Syrian government forces shelled a village in the country’s rebel-held northwest on Thursday, killing five people, most of them children, opposition activists said. – Associated Press 

President Biden falsely claimed that the U.S. doesn’t have military deployed to Syria during an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos Wednesday night, his first TV interview since the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan. – Fox News  


Israel said on Thursday it agreed with Qatar and the United Nations on a mechanism to transfer aid from the Gulf State to Gaza, boosting prospects for relief in the Palestinian enclave after it was devastated in an Israel-Hamas conflict. – Reuters 

CIA director Willian Burns reportedly raised US concerns over increasing Chinese investment and involvement in Israel — particularly its tech sector — during his meeting last week with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem. – Times of Israel 

Editorial: Unfortunately, Israel and the PA have very little engagement today beyond security coordination. While there may be no magic peace deal on the horizon, there’s no reason that the two neighbors can’t begin to work together on certain areas of common interest, as demonstrated by this week’s joint firefighting efforts. The region needs stability. Before Bennett’s trip to Washington, there is no better time than now for him to reach out to Abbas. – Jerusalem Post 

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: Once again, Biden is his own person, has had his own doubts about Iran all along, and much of the freeze in negotiations can be attributed to Iran itself. But Cohen’s one-on-one with Biden shows that personal diplomacy and powerful intelligence shared with the US president, like with some others in the past, can make all of the difference. – Jerusalem Post 

David M. Weinberg writes: In this context it is worth noting that the Abraham Accords passed their first stress test during the recent Israeli-Palestinian dust-up in Gaza and Jerusalem. While Gulf and Moroccan leaders issued harsh condemnations of Israel for its tough police response to Arab riots on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, no Abraham Accord country did more than protest. – Jerusalem Post


An Iranian fuel shipment arranged by Hezbollah for Lebanon will set sail on Thursday, the Shi’ite group said, cautioning its U.S. and Israeli foes against any moves to halt the consignment that it said aimed to ease an acute fuel crisis. – Reuters 

Lebanon complained to the United Nations after Israeli jets allegedly violated its airspace to carry out an airstrike on targets in Syria late Thursday, Beirut’s defense  minister said. – Agence France-Presse  

The Lebanese presidency said on Thursday that the United States has decided to assist Lebanon with electricity provision as the country struggles with crippling fuel shortages. – Reuters  

Fred Maroun writes: Nothing happens in Lebanese politics without Hezbollah’s approval, and in particular, Hezbollah stands in the way of reforms that could help Lebanon recover. Lebanon’s collapse should not have been a surprise to anyone who observed Hezbollah’s behavior in the last four decades. – Times of Israel  

Gulf States

Gulf states’ relations with the Taliban will have significant implications for the U.S., which maintains large military bases in the region and will rely on those nations as an outpost for Afghanistan once its pullout from that country is complete. – Bloomberg  

Afghanistan’s president, driven out by the Taliban, is the latest leader on the run to turn up in the United Arab Emirates. Others who found refuge here include Spain’s disgraced former king and two Thai prime ministers. – Associated Press 

A Kenyan security guard who wrote compelling dispatches under a pseudonym about the challenges of living as a low-wage worker in Qatar and advocated for their rights was freed from his monthslong detention and left the Gulf Arab country after paying a fine, activists said Thursday. – Associated Press

Middle East & North Africa

More than three weeks after firing the prime minister and suspending parliament, vowing to save the nation as anti-government protests raged, Kais Saied is yet to unveil a return to elected rule. The lack of progress risks delaying a long-awaited deal with the International Monetary Fund and plans to sell debt overseas in October, raising fears among some analysts of a tumultuous Lebanon-style default. – Bloomberg  

Russia’s top diplomat assured his Libyan counterpart Thursday that Moscow supports the withdrawal of all foreign fighters from the North African country and is prepared to help work out the details with other countries. – Associated Press 

Robert Nicholson writes: This does not mean we will stand by when their choices cross American red lines, but the U.S. must affirm their right to make them. The Islamic world may not change, or maybe it will—but it was never our job to decide. Our focus must be on curing the spiritual sickness that blinded us in the first place, recovering our own sense of civilizational self and reorienting our priorities accordingly. – Wall Street Journal  

Roie Yellinek writes: The Abraham Accords are thus not only about the Middle East, and their implications need to be seen in a wider international context as well. It is already clear that the growing rivalry between China and the U.S. will be one of the most, if not the most, important international developments of this decade. The motivation for Trump’s decision to push for these accords is clear: to stop or at least to slow down China’s growing influence in the region and to offer countries a new security and economic framework under American leadership. – Middle East Institute 

Bilal Wahab writes: After Afghanistan, Iraqi leaders may complain that the United States has become an unreliable partner. However, seeking to replace it with other patrons—be it Iran, Turkey, or another country—would only deepen Iraqi dependencies on even more unreliable partners. Instead, Iraqis must look to Baghdad for fixes to the government. – Washington Institute 

Korean Peninsula

The list of election issues set to define South Korea’s presidential race next year is long. The runaway housing prices, the pandemic, North Korea and gender inequality are a start. But an unlikely addition has also emerged in recent weeks: China. – New York Times  

North Korea, in recent months, has suffered from a significant shortage of food, and now there’s another report of bad news from that country: thousands of dead livestock. According to Daily NK, a heat wave has led to the deaths of more than 100,000 livestock as of late July, in South Pyongan Province alone. – The National Interest  

There was a series of stories about this in early June, with North Korea experts weighing in that Kim’s more svelte figure could strengthen his position if it meant he was in improved health but could hurt him if the weight loss was as the result of any type of illness. The weight loss has also coincided with reports of starvation in North Korea, something that the regime has not exactly denied. Now, the regime has warned North Koreans not to speculate about Kim’s weight. – The National Interest  


China has approved a sweeping privacy law that will curb wide-ranging data collection by technology companies, but that policy analysts say is unlikely to limit the state’s widespread use of surveillance. – Wall Street Journal  

Chinese authorities have shut down a U.S. labor auditor’s local China partner, escalating Beijing’s campaign to counter forced-labor allegations in its northwest Xinjiang region and potentially complicating efforts by multinationals to certify supply chains in the country. – Wall Street Journal  

China is struggling at home to sell the Taliban as a suitable partner for a country waging a war on alleged Islamic extremism, as it prepares to embrace an Afghanistan led by the militant group. – Bloomberg  

China’s top legislature has postponed a vote on extending an anti-sanctions law to Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post said on Friday, as global banks and other financial institutions fret over the impact it could have on their operations. – Reuters  

The pressure on civic organizations — ranging from teacher’s unions and legal societies to journalist associations and activists groups — shows Beijing isn’t finished remaking Hong Kong following unprecedented protests in 2019. The effort raises new questions about access to opposing views and information critical of public policies in the Asian financial center. – Bloomberg  

China has formally revised its laws to allow couples to have up to three children, to boost the birth rate. The regulation was one of several passed on Friday at a meeting of the country’s top lawmakers, the National People’s Congress (NPC). Details on a controversial anti-sanctions law for Hong Kong, which many businesses feared would put them in a difficult position, were also expected. But Hong Kong media reported on Friday that the decision had been delayed. – BBC 

Andrea Felsted and Anjani Trivedi write: Since China emerged from the first wave of Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020, the country’s shoppers haven’t been able to get enough Hermes sneakers and Louis Vuitton handbags. Their so-called “revenge spending” has fueled a rebound in sales of upmarket goods — and sent luxury valuations soaring — to heights that are nothing short of remarkable. – Bloomberg  

Desmond Lachman writes: One upside to a Chinese-induced world economic slowdown is that it would reduce the risk of U.S. economic overheating and inflation from today’s excessively expansive budget and monetary policy stances. But we would all be better off if China could somehow quickly contain its economically damaging delta wave and if the U.S. addressed the threat of economic overheating by tightening its economic policy. – The Hill  

Shuli Ren writes: Afghanistan is now a big headache for Beijing, which fears chaos there will spill over not just to its restive region of Xinjiang but to Pakistan. The People’s Republic has invested huge infrastructure projects as well as extended huge loans to Islamabad as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, one of President Xi Jinping’s signature policies. – Bloomberg  

Peter Brookes writes: This newly discovered ICBM field is expected to add  a minimum of 30 to 36 new silos to the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force’s  land-based missile arsenal—on top of some 200 new missile silos unveiled by other analysts earlier this summer. In total, we could be looking at 250-plus new Chinese ICBM silos. – The Daily Signal 

South Asia

A professional soccer player from Myanmar who publicly opposed the military junta that staged a coup in his country won asylum in Japan on Friday, a rare development in a country known for its notoriously unwelcoming immigration system. – New York Times  

Sadanand Dhume writes: The symbolic significance of an army of zealots humbling the world’s sole superpower is hard to exaggerate. In the Pakistani army it will strengthen the hand of those who view Afghanistan not merely in geopolitical terms, but as the fulfillment of a religious project rooted in an extreme interpretation of Islam that shuns all Western influence. – Wall Street Journal 

Mohammed Ayoob writes: Refusing to accept the Durand Line and encouraging Pashtun separatism on the Pakistan side of the border, which had been traditional ploys of Pashtun-dominated governments in Kabul from 1947 to garner domestic legitimacy, could again become a rallying cry for the Taliban leadership if it feels that its Islamic sheen is wearing off and is no longer able to provide legitimacy to its regime. – The National Interest 

Zachary Abuza writes: By 2007, Myanmar was one of the least developed countries in the world. Botched currency and other reforms led to the collapse of the kyat. […]The people benefitted from a decade’s worth of consistent economic growth, global integration, a freer press, and the proliferation of the internet and social media. They are not giving up 10 years of hard-won economic, civil, legal, and political progress without a fight. – War on the Rocks 


As more countries turn away from Chinese shots, vaccine aid from the United States offers an opportunity to restore relations in a region that American officials have mostly ignored for years while China extended its influence. The Biden administration has dispatched a crowd of senior officials, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who is scheduled to arrive on Sunday to visit Singapore and Vietnam. – New York Times 

Vice President Kamala Harris, in a visit to Singapore and Vietnam next week that aims to counter China’s growing influence, will have to contend with a new problem: the collapse of Afghanistan, which has left allies questioning the credibility of U.S. foreign policy promises. – Reuters  

Kurt Campbell, the White House’s top Asia adviser, declared last month that a historic change in U.S. foreign policy was afoot, one that would shift U.S. focus away from the Middle East to Asia, where China’s growing might has cast shadows over Washington’s allies.- Reuters  

The Biden administration now insists the U.S. position on Taiwan, which for decades has been one of so-called “strategic ambiguity,” has not changed, despite President Joe Biden vowing that the United States would respond to a Chinese attack on the island similarly to how it has promised to defend NATO allies. – Washington Examiner  

Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah is expected to announce the appointment of the country’s new prime minister following a meeting with other royal rulers on Friday. – Reuters  

The progress by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Myanmar has not been as effective as hoped, Singapore’s foreign minister said in an interview. – Reuters  

Bonnie S. Glaser and Gregory Poling write: As Beijing faces rising costs for its territorial infringements in the South China Sea, the prospect of a negotiated resolution to this conflict will grow more attractive. But time is running out. China’s control over disputed waters is steadily growing, and the path to a resolution that all sides can live with is narrowing. By acting now, the United States and its regional partners can work together to bolster the rules-based order in the South China Sea. – Foreign Affairs  


Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a June 16 summit meeting with President Biden, objected to any role for American forces in Central Asian countries, senior U.S. and Russian officials said, undercutting the U.S. military’s efforts to act against new terrorist dangers after its Afghanistan withdrawal. – Wall Street Journal  

As the Afghan government collapsed this week in Kabul and the United States scrambled to speed up its evacuation effort, hundreds of Russian armored vehicles and artillery pieces were clearly visible hundreds of miles away, on the border with Tajikistan. – New York Times 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Moscow in the twilight of her reign on Friday, with Afghanistan set to be the final twist in their long and thorny relationship. – Agence France-Presse 

Mason Clark writes: Kabulov said that Russia will likely remove the Taliban from its list of terrorist organizations if the Taliban “continues to behave peacefully.”[6] Russian rhetoric suggests that Moscow is seeking unspecified concessions from the Taliban before recognizing it. Those concessions will likely go beyond assurances about containing terrorism and good governance. – Institute for the Study of War 

Elisabeth Braw writes: Perhaps the most common mistake world leaders and their advisers make is also a fundamentally human one: they fail to see a situation from the other side’s perspective, helping them anticipate potential actions and prepare for them. Having been part of the other side, men like Terras, Selga, Riekstins, Maasikas and Semaska can help the Western alliance better prepare for Russia’s actions. And as Russia’s behaviour grows increasingly aggressive, it would be foolish not to consult them. – Engelsberg Ideas 

Ralph Clem and Ray Finch write: NATO and Russia are engaged in an ongoing geopolitical drama, one in which the actors are willing and perhaps driven to increase the tempo and expand the arena in which it plays out. This makes dangerous military interactions, both at sea and in the air, much more commonplace and virtually guarantees more of the same all along the NATO-Russian frontier. – War on the Rocks 


Ahead of his meeting with President Biden at the end of the month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed frustration with Western allies’ hesitancy to greenlight Kyiv’s accession to NATO and taken issue with Biden’s comment that the country still has “to clean up corruption” before it can be considered for membership in the military alliance. – Washington Post 

Two US officials working in Germany have sought medical treatment after complaining of symptoms similar to those related to the so-called Havana syndrome, according to a person familiar with the matter. […]The US has not said publicly who it believed was behind the incidents, which appeared to involve “directed” attacks using radiofrequency energy such as microwave radiation. But privately, officials suspected Russia was responsible. – Financial Times 

Editorial: The United States is the largest contributor and largest shareholder in the IMF, and a voting heavyweight. While it lacks sufficient votes alone to block the Belarus SDRs, the Biden administration should mobilize European and other allies — all members of the IMF — to demand a suspension of the funds. To release them now would dilute the impact of sanctions. – Washington Post 

Editorial: Yet everything about Mr. Biden’s Afghan withdrawal has been a slap to those allies. They didn’t want the U.S. to leave, but he did. The botched execution has left them scrambling to airlift out thousands of their citizens and thousands more Afghan translators and others who assisted each nation’s war effort. – Wall Street Journal  

Elisabeth Braw writes: The ones not invited to North America will instead try to make their way to European countries, which have already suspended deportation flights of Afghans. While the United States gets to choose its Afghan refugees, its European allies will be left to handle the rest. As the Europeans have been discovering earlier this year, the road to the EU may well lead through Belarus, which has been arranging for thousands of Iraqis and others to cross into Lithuania. – Foreign Policy  

Tom Rogan writes: British members of Parliament railed against President Joe Biden on Wednesday, lamenting his chaotic and dishonorable withdrawal from Afghanistan. […] If top politicians from America’s closest ally are offering such harsh criticisms out loud, one can only wonder what other allies are thinking. – Washington Examiner  

Ionela Ciolan writes: As the world addresses the post-Pax Americana age and the U.S. focuses more on the Asia-Pacific, it would be a serious mistake to consider that Europe no longer matters to the U.S. Rebuilding transatlantic trust and investing more in cooperation with the EU is in line with President Biden’s grand strategy. – Center for European Policy Analysis  


The United Nations secretary-general said Thursday that humanitarian conditions in Ethiopia are “hellish” as the nine-month Tigray conflict spreads in Africa’s second most populous country. – Associated Press 

Copper producers are ready to start expansion projects worth $2 billion in Zambia next year if the industry can reach an agreement on royalties with President-elect Hakainde Hichilema’s new administration. – Bloomberg  

For the first time in nine months of war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, aid workers will this week run out of food to deliver to millions of people who are going hungry there, the head of the U.S. government’s humanitarian agency said. – Reuters  

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 

Gunmen ambushed a Malian army convoy in central Mali on Thursday, killing at least 15 soldiers, the army said, just days after another attack in the country’s north left several dozen civilians dead. – Associated Press 

The South African government’s diplomatic campaign to exclude Israel from the international community escalated on Wednesday, as a regional grouping of southern African states roundly condemned the decision last month to admit the Jewish state to the African Union (AU) as an observer member. – Algemeiner 

The Americas

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday named the country’s envoy to China as the new foreign minister in a cabinet shakeup that comes amid political negotiations with the opposition meant to ease a political stalemate. – Reuters  

A drip of foreign aid began to reach more rural areas of southwestern Haiti on Thursday, arriving five days after a powerful earthquake killed more than 2,000 and flattened tens of thousands of buildings into rubble. – Reuters  

Editorial: But the oil-producing nations’ response to Biden is also evidence of how much respect and diplomatic prestige he has cost the U.S. in the last week. Biden’s gross bungling in Afghanistan, followed by his appalling attempt on national television Monday to blame everyone but himself, points to a president who has apparently lost touch with reality. – Washington Examiner  

Josh Rogin writes: In fairness, the Biden administration was dealt a lousy hand. Both the Obama and Trump administrations before him failed to make democracy and human rights priorities in their foreign policy. The George W. Bush administration over-militarized the mission of democracy and human rights promotion, which is partly why those efforts failed. – Washington Post 

Fareed Zakaria writes: In large organizations, the challenge of navigating the bureaucracy gets far more attention than actual policymaking. Information is always internally generated; nothing from the outside can seep into the building. This reality might explain perhaps the most startling fact about the Afghanistan intervention — that for 20 years, the U.S. government deluded itself and the world into believing it was making genuine progress, and that the Afghan army, in particular, was growing in strength and effectiveness. – Washington Post 

Michael Kazin writes: But the president may be able to stave off that kind of public bickering. If he chooses to declassify whatever vital documents exist, in an attempt to convince his Democratic critics that he is serious about revealing why his exit strategy went wrong, it may dissuade them from engaging in their own lengthy investigation. The defeat in Afghanistan, like the one in Vietnam, was a long time coming. Democrats can take steps to prevent such interventions. – New York Times 

Elliott Abrams writes: And there is one more thing the Biden administration should not do: It should stop minimizing the importance of Venezuela. Especially right now, in the context of its decision to abandon any effort to build democracy in Afghanistan, the administration should remain attentive, energetic, and faithful to the cause of democracy in Venezuela. – The Hill  

Robin Niblett writes: The messy end of the Afghan war need not distract the Biden administration from pursuing its shared priorities with its European partners and should instead drive both sides to demonstrate their continued commitment to each other’s security. The new initiatives that the Biden administration has put in place with its European and Asian allies in the past six months promise to be far more meaningful to the future of transatlantic and Indo-Pacific security than the legacy of its failures in Afghanistan. – Foreign Affairs 


The Federal Trade Commission filed a new version of its antitrust lawsuit against Facebook Inc. on Thursday, seeking to jump-start its case with bolstered allegations that the company is abusing a monopoly position in social media. – Wall Street Journal  

Leading Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Liquid has been hit by hackers, with almost $100m (£73m) estimated to have been stolen. The company announced that some of its digital currency wallets have been “compromised.” – BBC 

U.S. Army Special Forces have worked to develop top tier information warfare capabilities and want to mix their skills more often with conventional military units. – C4ISRNET 

Editorial: President Biden’s administration has signaled a national cyber strategy is forthcoming. That’s essential. […]A new working group involving the United States, Japan, India and Australia is a promising step. The country, as the commission assesses, is finally crafting some tools for robust cybersecurity. The key will be viewing these tools not as ad hoc responses to problems as they arise, but rather as a means for building something bigger and more resilient. – Washington Post 

Jason Blessing writes: America’s existing cyber force structure — consisting of Cyber Command and its current service-level components — provides a strong foundation for effectively carrying out the cyber mission. The United States should make this force structure work better, not undermine its progress with the creation of a new independent service. – War on the Rocks  


The new U.S. Air Force secretary says he’s skeptical about current plans to build the service’s Advanced Battle Management System, signaling the program could be heading for an overhaul. – Defense News  

Mackenzie Eaglen writes: Congress will eventually have to pay the growing tab when it comes to ancient military facilities and infrastructure. Commanders are already feeling the consequences with not enough supply to meet global needs. Not including defense facilities in the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill was a major missed opportunity. The backlog will only grow and get more expensive the longer Congress waits to act. – 19fortyfive

Maiya Clark writes: This infrastructure package is just one part of a concerning trend toward massive expansions of government spending on wasteful projects while shortchanging vital national priorities such as our national defense. – The Daily Signal  

Stacie Pettyjohn and Becca Wasser write: As the Department of Defense continues to reshape the U.S. military so that it is better able to defeat aggression by a great-power adversary that can contest U.S. forces in all domains, it should take stock of how it performed and what it has learned in recent wars. These conflicts yield lessons for great-power competition and warfighting. […]Reinvigorating these proficiencies and developing improved ways of carrying out these missions will be essential if the United States finds itself in a large-scale war against China or Russia. – War on the Rocks  

Long War

Law enforcement in Washington, D.C. , said no explosive device was found inside the vehicle of a man who was arrested near the Capitol on Thursday after he told police he had a bomb. In a late afternoon update, Capitol Police said no bomb was discovered inside the suspect’s truck parked outside the Library of Congress, but investigators did find possible bomb-making materials. – Washington Examiner 

Chairman of Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh said that Hamas maintains “a strategic relationship” with Iran, Hizbullah and “many (others) in the region,” and therefore any “foolish act” on the part of Israel could lead to regional war. Haniyeh made his remarks during an interview with Al-Alam TV (Iran) that aired on August 10, 2021. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s takeover of the capital Kabul and the rest of the country evoked expressions of joy and congratulation from Islamist organizations and officials, most of them affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and supported by Qatar, such as the Hamas movement and the Doha-based International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS). – Middle East Media Research Institute  

Editorial: Without nearby bases, the U.S. will have to conduct operations against al Qaeda, ISIS and other jihadists from Qatar or U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf region. The long flights mean that 60% or more of a drone’s flight time will be taken up with the trip, rather than surveillance over Afghan territory. If ships have to be deployed for Afghan duty, they won’t be available for deterrence in East Asia. – Wall Street Journal  

Seth G. Jones writes: Mr. Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan could be the most significant foreign-policy failure of his presidency—and among the most significant foreign-policy failures of any U.S. president since the Vietnam War. An aggressive counterterrorism strategy would at least blunt the ability of terrorists to hide in Afghanistan and threaten America. – Wall Street Journal  

Amotz Asa-El writes: Islamism’s war is not on the West; having struck in Russia, China, Indonesia, Turkey and throughout Africa, its target is the entire human race. That is why the war on Islamism, unlike the war for democracy, is both winnable and imperative. That’s why there will now be an unwritten agreement with Afghanistan’s new leaders: what happens between you and the Afghan people who failed to fight you is between you and them, but if you return to export jihadists, you will find that you too can underestimate other people’s will to fight. – Jerusalem Post