Fdd's overnight brief

August 23, 2021

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


President Biden said on Sunday that his administration might extend his Aug. 31 deadline for removing all American troops from Afghanistan, and he pledged that all evacuated Afghan allies will be given a home in the United States after they are screened and vetted at bases in other countries. – New York Times 

The Taliban fought deadly battles with budding resistance forces in northern Afghanistan, as political negotiations on a broader government moved ahead in Kabul and access to the city’s U.S.-run airport remained difficult for thousands of Afghans trying to flee. – Wall Street Journal 

President Biden said Sunday that the U.S. military is “executing a plan” to move stranded American citizens to the Kabul airport in greater numbers, including through an expansion of a safe zone around the facility and by creating conduits for people to access the compound “safely and effectively.” – Washington Post 

At a news conference in Kabul last week, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid made the case that today’s Taliban was no longer the group the world remembers from the last time it came to power nationally. – Washington Post 

Countries around the world — some more reluctantly than others — are accepting a new political reality with the Taliban as the ruling power in Afghanistan, though they’re stopping short of officially recognizing the group’s governance and are placing aid packages on hold. – Washington Post 

As the Taliban swept into power across Afghanistan, it captured many millions, perhaps billions, of dollars worth of U.S. military equipment that had once belonged to Afghan forces. – Washington Post 

Groups of armed Afghans attacked the Taliban on Friday, driving Afghanistan’s new rulers out of three northern districts, the first assault against the Islamist militants since they swept into Kabul last week and seized control of the government. – Washington Post 

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was based on the conclusion that terrorist groups would no longer be able to use the country to stage attacks on the United States. […]While al-Qaeda has been substantially weakened since 2001 — and the Taliban has committed to preventing it from attacking the United States and its allies — the Taliban maintains ties to the group, and al-Qaeda fighters have hailed its takeover. – Washington Post 

In the six days since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, Afghans have negotiated a terrifying new reality after enduring 20 years of war and suicide bombings. Their world has been upended, and something as prosaic as a trip to the airport now inspires terror. Just stepping outside the front door can be jarring and disorienting. – New York Times 

The Taliban faced the first armed challenge to their rule as former Afghan soldiers, aided by villagers, drove the militants out of three districts in the mountains north of Kabul, according to former Afghan officials. – New York Times 

The Taliban appeared closer to forming a government nearly a week after seizing the capital as one of their leaders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, arrived in Kabul to begin talks with former President Hamid Karzai and other politicians. – New York Times 

As the Taliban attempt the precarious shift from insurgent movement to functioning government, Afghanistan is facing the heightened risk of a financial collapse after being propped up for the past two decades by foreign aid that now accounts for nearly half its legal economy. – New York Times 

As lethal mayhem persisted outside Kabul airport, with thousands of terrified Afghans trying to flee, the Taliban have reached out to a former Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, and to Russia in an attempt to fulfill their pledge to form an “inclusive” government and defeat holdouts against their rule. – New York Times 

The plan was a good one, the group concluded. Four months later, the plan is in shambles as Mr. Biden struggles to explain how a withdrawal most Americans supported went so badly wrong in its execution. On Friday, as scenes of continuing chaos and suffering at the airport were broadcast around the world, Mr. Biden went so far as to say that “I cannot promise what the final outcome will be, or what it will be that it will be without risk of loss.” – New York Times 

The Taliban, who banned the internet the first time they controlled Afghanistan, have turned social media into a powerful tool to tame opposition and broadcast their messages. Now firmly in control of the country, they are using thousands of Twitter accounts — some official and others anonymous — to placate Afghanistan’s terrified but increasingly tech-savvy urban base. – New York Times 

President Biden’s national security adviser warned on Sunday that the threat of a terrorist attack by the Islamic State posed a serious danger to the administration’s evacuation of thousands of Americans and Afghan allies from the international airport in Kabul. – New York Times 

Western security forces were involved in an exchange of fire with unidentified gunmen Monday at Kabul airport, as US President Joe Biden sought to speed up the chaotic evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. – Agence France-Presse 

The European Union’s top officials warned the Taliban on Saturday that the current conversations being held to secure the exit of as many Afghan evacuees as possible do not mean the bloc is prepared to recognize the new regime – Associated Press 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers Friday that Americans trying to leave Afghanistan have been beaten by Taliban fighters, according to several people who participated in a briefing call with Austin and other top officials. – Politico  

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said America’s credibility with its allies around the globe has been damaged by the “debacle” in Afghanistan and offered some recommendations on how the US can restore its standing in the world. – New York Post 

Britain would have to turn to Russia and China to exercise a “moderating influence” over the Taliban, despite a mistrust between the UK and those governments, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said. – Reuters 

The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) pledged on Sunday to help achieve peace in Afghanistan and said its future leaders must guard against allowing the country to be used as a backyard for international Islamist militancy. – Reuters 

At least 20 people have died in the past seven days in and around the Kabul airport during the evacuation effort after Taliban insurgents took over the Afghan capital last week, a NATO official said on Sunday. – Reuters 

President Biden emphasized on Sunday that refugees who are being evacuated from Afghanistan will be thoroughly vetted before they are brought to the United States. – The Hill 

US national security officials are working to account for more than 20 years worth of weapons provided to the Afghan military as images of Taliban fighters brandishing American-made rifles and riding in abandoned Humvees are raising concerns about what else was left behind. – CNN 

The White House’s readout of a call between Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron on the crisis in Afghanistan leaves out an impassioned plea from the French president that the US and its allies have a “moral responsibility” to evacuate Afghan allies. – The Guardian 

As the Taliban seek to consolidate power in the Afghan capital of Kabul amid the US’s chaotic withdrawal from the country, one of the only remaining opposition leaders offering a flicker of resistance has said that a civil war is inevitable without a power-sharing agreement. – Times of Israel 

Editorial: Al Qaeda has been diminished in Afghanistan thanks to the U.S. presence in the country, CIA listening posts on the ground, and a friendly government. The question is whether, with its allies the Taliban now in control, al Qaeda and other terror groups will again have a sanctuary, be able to attract new recruits, and again plot against Americans. Mr. Biden’s answers aren’t merely wrong. They misunderstand the continuing threat from Islamic terrorism. – Wall Street Journal 

Editorial: A fair question is whether the President simply plans to declare victory on Aug. 31 and assert that everyone is out. Meanwhile, Mr. Biden is humiliating the U.S. and making himself look weak and out of touch with reality. – Wall Street Journal 

Editorial: In 1970, in explaining a military offensive in Cambodia, Richard Nixon put the stakes this way: “If, when the chips are down, the world’s most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.” A nation that hesitates to rescue its people for fear of the Taliban is behaving like a pitiful, helpless giant. – Wall Street Journal 

Nikki Haley writes: Through his rushed withdrawal, Biden has already insulted the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who spent the past two decades fighting the Taliban and protecting the United States — especially the more than 2,300 brave Americans who gave their lives in Afghanistan. There are no words to describe how much worse it would be if Biden rewarded the enemy they sacrificed so much to defeat by recognizing it as a legitimate government. – Washington Post 

Hy Rothstein writes: If there is a diplomatic don’t-do checklist, the U.S. did everything on it. […]While this failure is no orphan, Mr. Biden’s assertion that under his leadership the U.S. is “back at the head of the table” rings hollow. His action has made allies feel that the U.S. cannot be trusted, and it has given enemies reason not to fear us. The administration has signaled that it is unconcerned about the lives and futures of others. The U.S. will be lucky to get a seat at the diplomatic table and may not be invited to the meeting at all. – Wall Street Journal 

Ryan C. Crocker writes: Now, the Taliban hold all the cards. They will determine whether evacuations through the Kabul airport can proceed. […]It is that U.S. Air Force C-17 taxiing for takeoff from Kabul surrounded by a desperate Afghan mob. Seconds later, at least one man falls to his death from the plane’s wheel well. It is eerily reminiscent of the people who jumped from the World Trade Center on 9/11 rather than face death by fire. What a tragic and painful circle it closes two decades later. – New York Times 

Daniel Moss writes: Any Afghan government — especially return acts with an unflattering past — will come to realize that the U.S. is key to financial and economic security. […]How much any of this means to Afghanistan, or the degree of American will to test the extent of its monetary reach, remains to be seen. The broad point is that the U.S. is not without cards to play. – Bloomberg 

James Stavridis writes: There is one upside compared with 2001: As the Taliban become more dependent on the internet, cyberattacks will be an increasingly effective option. The U.S. will have a growing ability to damage financial institutions, data-collection centers, industrial facilities, command networks and logistic nodes. “Over the horizon” has an exciting, Tom Clancy-like ring to it. But this isn’t fiction, and for now, there’s no counting on America’s ability to keep the Taliban from again doing business with terrorists. – Bloomberg 

Tony Blair writes: The world is now uncertain of where the West stands because it is so obvious that the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan in this way was driven not by grand strategy but by politics. We didn’t need to do it. We chose to do it. We did it in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending “the forever wars”, as if our engagement in 2021 was remotely comparable to our commitment 20 or even ten years ago, and in circumstances in which troop numbers had declined to a minimum and no allied soldier had lost their life in combat for 18 months. – Tony Blair Institute for Global Change 

Jim Jones writes: Things turned ugly in Afghanistan, but please know that your country appreciates the unflinching service you provided in an effort to protect the American people and to make a better life possible for the Afghan people. Your primary mission was to keep the U.S. safe, and that was done well. Unfortunately, Afghan corruption and misdirection in our upper ranks made it impossible to help the Afghan people, but that was beyond your control. – The Hill 

Andrew Mcclure writes: The United States cannot always prevent the human rights violations that follow when it withdraws — we have seen this over several decades in Vietnam and, tragically, we will almost certainly see it in Afghanistan. Despite this sad reality, the U.S. must never abdicate or duck the responsibility to use its influence and the leverage it does have to advocate forcefully for prisoners of conscience and to press for human rights reform. It is the very least we can do for these countries and for the brave men and women we have left behind. – The Hill 

Daniel F. Runde writes: The United States’ Afghan partners should not spend one to three years waiting in danger while the government sorts out the paperwork. In an era of great power competition, the United States will be judged not only by its words, but by its actions. It is in the United States’ long-term interest to get this issue right and to ensure that it maintains global and local partnerships in the future. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Thomas Spoehr writes: When the contractors keeping Afghan planes in the air and the small but significant presence of U.S. forces were abruptly removed, it created a crisis of confidence that spread like wildfire. Now, with this mass transfer of military equipment, the Taliban will be a more capable force for years to come. It didn’t have to happen. – Heritage Foundation 

Yasmeen Serhan writes: Twenty years later, the Taliban has returned to power in a country unlike the one it previously controlled. […]Though the Taliban will certainly face challenges from an array of other armed and ethnic groups, Afghanistan’s young people represent the greatest long-term domestic threat to the Taliban’s aims. Demographically, ideologically, and economically, theirs is the generation best positioned to determine what shape the country’s future takes. – The Atlantic 

Emily Estelle, Mason Clark, Nicholas Carl, Kita Fitzpatrick, Matthew McInnis, Trey Sprouse, Virginia Wang, and Ezgi Yazici write: The Taliban’s swift seizure of Kabul has altered key regional states’ calculus toward Afghanistan. Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey are weighing how to take advantage of the United States’ hurried withdrawal while mitigating the new terrorist threats and refugee waves from Afghanistan that will likely follow. […]The Taliban’s victory also presents an opportunity for al Qaeda and other Salafi-jihadi groups to expand their havens in Afghanistan and intensify ongoing efforts to inspire terror attacks in the West capitalizing on the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. – Institute for The Study of War 


Recently elected Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has said his government will place a priority on fighting COVID-19. “The government’s first priority is controlling the coronavirus, improving the health situation, and widespread vaccination,” Raisi said on August 21 as parliament began debating the conservative leader’s male-only cabinet choices. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi called on Japan to release Iranian funds frozen in the country because of U.S. sanctions, Iranian state TV reported after the president met on Sunday with the visiting Japanese foreign minister. – Reuters 

Commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), Major General Hossein Salami has said that US-produced Covid-19 vaccines could not be trusted and there was no guarantee their vaccines would not intentionally cause paralysis in patients, as Iran reached its highest level of daily deaths since the pandemic began. – Iran International 

Hackers from a group called “Adalat Ali” published security camera footage they claim shows the inside of Iran’s Evin Prison, where Iran jails and brutally tortures its political prisoners, according to Radio Farda. – Jerusalem Post 

The Iranian Foreign Ministry has denied that a member of its forces or one of its citizens was killed in Yemen. The denial is interesting because there wasn’t much attention given to this story. – Jerusalem Post 


Syria’s air defense forces have shot down 22 missiles launched by Israeli warplanes during an airstrike against targets in Syria, the Russian military said Friday. – Associated Press

A fighter jet with the U.S.-led coalition shot down a drone in eastern Syria on Saturday after the unmanned aircraft was deemed a threat, the U.S. military said. – Reuters 

Four Syrian civilians were killed after regime air defenses responded to an alleged Israeli airstrike targeting sites in the Qalamoun Mountains near the capital of Damascus. – Jerusalem Post 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: But there are questions because Syria claims it is firing at missiles and downing them. If so, why are its air-defense missiles flying so far away? Are they just stray missiles that continue on their track because they don’t find a target? In the absence of knowledge about Syrian air-defense strategy and its precise capabilities, it may not be possible to know. What is known is that Syrian air defense apparently continues to fire wildly at what it thinks are incoming missiles and enemy planes. – Jerusalem Post 


Afghans who manage to make the weeks-long journey through Iran on foot to the Turkish border face a three-metre high wall, ditches or barbed wire as Turkish authorities step up efforts to block any refugee influx into the country. – Reuters 

 As the world was focused on the crisis in Afghanistan, Turkey has been increasing its airstrikes on the Yazidi minorities in northern Iraq and attacking anti-ISIS fighters in eastern Syria. – Jerusalem Post 

The European Union should assist Afghans in Afghanistan and in neighboring countries to avoid a new migration wave, Turkey’s president told Greece’s prime minister in a telephone call Friday. – Associated Press 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: This article encapsulates the worldview of Ankara in its move to push some of its chess pieces into Afghanistan with the hopes of working with China, Russia and Iran to control Kabul. Much like the US and Soviet Union moved into Berlin in 1945, Turkey sees this as a key moment. As the US declines, the new global leaders will move into the proverbial Berlin of 2021, which is Kabul. The post-American world that came in the wake of the US Global War on Terrorism is one where Turkey, Russia, China and Iran will work in concert and not against each other to weaken the US. – Jerusalem Post 


Israeli airstrikes that demolished four high-rise buildings in the Gaza Strip during the war in May apparently violated international laws of war, a leading international human rights group said Monday, calling on the Israeli military to produce evidence justifying the attacks. – Associated Press 

Israel’s military bombed Palestinian militant weapons sites in the Gaza Strip early Sunday in response to a violent demonstration on the perimeter fence that left an Israeli police officer critically injured, the army said. – Associated Press 

Israeli defense officials believe that Hamas is ready for another round of fighting with Israel following the violent clashes on the Gaza border on Saturday. – Haaretz 

Israel will settle the score with anyone who harms its citizens or soldiers, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett threatened on Sunday as a Border Police officer, shot along the Gaza border on Saturday, remained in critical condition. – Jerusalem Post 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett intends to present US President Joe Biden with a plan to halt a nuclear Iran when the two hold their first meeting together in the White House later this week. – Jerusalem Post 

Ahead of the UNIFIL mandate extension at the end of the month, Israel is urging the UN Security Council to reform the peacekeeping force, giving it greater freedom of movement and access to areas that are suspected of harboring terrorist activity. – Jerusalem Post 


The country’s health sector is a casualty of the multiple crises that have plunged Lebanon into a downward spiral — a financial and economic meltdown, compounded by a complete failure of the government, runaway corruption and a pandemic that isn’t going away. – Associated Press 

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah suggested that the next Lebanese government pursue drilling for oil and gas off of Lebanon’s coast, stressing that Hezbollah could bring an Iranian company to drill, if necessary, during a speech on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post 

Iran said on Monday it is ready to ship more fuel to Lebanon if needed, a day after the leader of Lebanon’s Iran-aligned Hezbollah group said more vessels carrying Iranian fuel would sail soon to help ease the country’s fuel shortage. – Reuters 

Christophe Abi-Nassif and Jessica Obeid write: Without a strong and credible government to once and for all implement sustainable power sector reforms and negotiate a financial package with the IMF, the Lebanese pound will continue its freefall and Lebanese citizens will be unable to afford the very few hours of power supply that remain. Along the way, Lebanon will continue to be used as both collateral and a testing ground, stuck between Hezbollah’s drive to move the country Eastward and the West’s attempts to contain Iran’s growing influence in the region. – Middle East Institute 

Gulf States

Qatar on Sunday announced Oct. 2 as its date for the country’s first election to vote for members of its top advisory panel, known as the Shura Council. – Associated Press 

Paul Bremer and David C. Gompert write: The Taliban’s triumph in Afghanistan makes the victory of democracy in Iraq all the more important. Hard as it may have seemed during its darkest days, Iraq has the potential to be a model in the region and an American partner. – Wall Street Journal 

Erik Gustafson, Omar Al-Nidawi, and Mohammed Khalil write: In Iraq, pre-election polls indicate likely difficulties for Tishreen protest movement to translate popular support into electoral gains, due to widespread concerns about electoral legitimacy and political violence. – Washington Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt closed its main border crossing point with the Gaza Strip on Monday amid tensions with the territory’s militant Hamas rulers, officials said. – Associated Press 

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has sent a letter to President Isaac Herzog, in which he expressed hope that renewed ties between the countries will encourage regional peace, the president’s office said on Friday. – Times of Israel 

Saudi Arabia pledged on Sunday to provide assistance to Tunisia, which is suffering a political, economic and health crisis, the Tunisian presidency said on Sunday, the latest sign of support for President Kais Saied against his Islamist opponents. – Reuters 

Concern is mounting over freedoms in Tunisia as President Kais Saied presses ahead with a “purge” that has seen politicians, judges and businessmen arrested or banned from travel, activists say. – Agence France-Presse 

Korean Peninsula

The United States does not have hostile intent toward Pyongyang and is open to meeting any time and any place, Washington’s special envoy for North Korea said on Monday during a visit to South Korea. – Reuters 

William Kim writes: In order to better assure America’s ally about its extended deterrence, the Biden administration needs to re-examine the current deterrence arrangements and modify it to better address the changing security environment on the Korean Peninsula and East Asia as a whole—before South Korea takes matters into its own hands. – The National Interest 

Kyle Mizokami writes: Wherever in North Korea they land, the ROK Marines are in for a very tough fight. North Korea is heavily garrisoned and home to an army of 1.2 million, with several million more in the reserves and militia. Ideally, a landing would come while the North is fully committed to an attack on the South, leaving little fuel for KPA forces to counterattack a beach landing. The ROK Marines are truly the tip of the spear, and their commitment in wartime will signal the end of the Kim regime. – The National Interest 

Sebastien Roblin writes: Pyongyang still sees in Vietnam a model for its own aspirations to reunify the Korean peninsula.  However, relations between the former allies have remained cool, particularly since Pyongyang failed to pay for a Vietnamese rice shipment in 1996. Today, South Korea—not North Korea—is one of Vietnam’s top economic partners. – The National Interest 


Beijing delayed plans for a new law that could bar banks and companies in Hong Kong from complying with sanctions on China’s people, reflecting caution about a measure that has sent a wave of concern through the city’s business community. – Wall Street Journal 

In the U.S. departure from Afghanistan, China has seen the realization of long-held hopes for a reduction of the influence of a geopolitical rival in what it considers its backyard. – Associated Press 

Editorial: Not content to terrorize minority communities and critics at home, the Chinese government is exporting repression to countries unwilling or unable to resist. These nations participate in China’s extreme human rights abuses, a moral stain that no amount of infrastructure investment or goodwill curried in Beijing can justify. Countries rightly appalled must preserve bonds of solidarity and cultivate opposition to this growing illiberal menace. – Washington Post 

Zhou Bo writes: The speed and scope of the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan have prompted introspection in the West over what went wrong, and how, after billions of dollars spent on a 20-year war effort, it could all end so ignominiously. China, though, is looking forward. It is ready to step into the void left by the hasty U.S. retreat to seize a golden opportunity. – New York Times 

Yara Bayoumy writes: For one thing, China may have been content with its adversary stuck in a “messy and costly morass,” as Zhou describes America’s time in Afghanistan. And Beijing’s economic interests may not be totally secure under Taliban rule; the U.S. presence did provide a modicum of security. China is unlikely to fill that security vacuum in a significant way, in line with its stated strategy of fostering noninterventionist relationships with its neighbors. – New York Times 

Weifeng Zhong writes: The way the United States is ending the “endless war” in Afghanistan is frustrating in many respects. But while it’s tempting to be concerned about China’s ambitions to secure its mineral monopoly in Afghanistan, this is one case where we can relax. – The Hill 

Arthur Herman writes: If we are going to make sure that future history books don’t cite the fall of Kabul in 2021 as the landmark date in China’s rise as the dominant superpower in Central and South Asia, policy-makers need to develop a bold plan to rebuild U.S. influence and power and to reassure allies such as India, Saudi Arabia, and Israel that we aren’t handing the keys to the region to Beijing. – Hudson Institute 


Successive U.S. administrations have pledged to pivot away from entanglements in the Middle East and focus American foreign policy on the Indo-Pacific, where a string of nations are anxious about China’s growing military clout and hungry for U.S. engagement. – Washington Post 

President Joe Biden is nominating longtime former senior State Department official Nicholas Burns to serve as his ambassador to China and former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to serve as his envoy to Japan. – Associated Press 

Beijing’s more belligerent stance has alarmed the US, Taiwan’s unofficial protector. In March, Admiral Philip Davidson, then-commander of US forces in the Pacific, said that a Chinese attack on Taiwan could be launched within six years. But on the ground in Taiwan, there is no sign of panic. – Financial Times 

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said on Monday during a visit to Singapore that the United States was focusing on evacuation efforts taking place in Afghanistan and that there would be plenty of time to analyse the context of the troop withdrawal. – Reuters 

Indonesia has moved its Afghanistan diplomatic mission from Kabul to Pakistan, its foreign minister said on Saturday, after its air force evacuated dozens in the wake of the Taliban’s seizure of power. – Reuters 

Marc L. Busch writes: The U.S. is also not in any apparent rush to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership, much to Vietnam’s regret. Something could perhaps be done to deepen the 2007 U.S.-Vietnam Trade and Investment Framework. But in comparison to Vietnam’s free trade deals with Canada, the EU and Mexico, for example, this will come across as being trite. – The Hill 

Hannah Grothusen writes: Overall, the United States’ vested interest in Taiwanese autonomy underscores the importance of a sound, sustainable plan for engagement with the island nation. Biden’s willingness to support Taiwan shows that the legacy of Trump’s policies has radically reshaped U.S. engagement. […]Going forward, Biden should carefully weigh the merits and risks of its engagement with Taiwan in order to create a sustainable balance that neither overcommits the United States nor ignores the potential benefits of a partnership. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that the nearly 20-year U.S.-led effort in Afghanistan had failed, and warned Western countries to stop the irresponsible “experiments” of trying to impose Western values and democracy on other countries. – Washington Post 

The UK and the US issued joint sanctions on Friday against seven Russian nationals linked to the 2020 nerve agent attack on opposition activist Alexei Navalny. – Financial Times 

Chancellor Angela Merkel has sought to assuage Ukrainian concerns over the nearly completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline, saying Germany would not allow Russia to weaponise the gas corridor. – Financial Times 

As the west has sought to isolate Lukashenko, the authoritarian leader has put himself ever more in Putin’s debt. Yet while that may have suited Putin so far, Minsk’s increasing dependence on Moscow comes with growing risks for the Kremlin too, analysts say. – Financial Times 

As the clock runs down on her 16-year chancellorship, Angela Merkel is racing for closure on disputes centering around her long-fraught relationship with Vladimir Putin. – Bloomberg 

Norway has finalized an updated security agreement with Russia that adds strengthened protocols for avoiding high-risk encounters between aircraft and naval vessels in the High North region. The agreement comes at a time when Norway and Russia have increased military activities there. – Defense News 

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan discussed the situation in Afghanistan during a phone call and agreed to strengthen bilateral coordination on Afghan issues, the Kremlin said in a statement on Saturday. – Reuters 


As the Taliban entered Kabul last week, Marcus Grotian had to deliver a tough message to hundreds of Afghans gathered in safe houses in the capital: Leave immediately and hide wherever you can. – Washington Post 

Now, as Taliban militants seize control in Afghanistan, that failure is looming over European leaders. And it’s led to officials and diplomats floating disparate ideas for how to handle an expected increase in Afghan asylum seekers. The proposals are as varied as they are piecemeal — build border fencing, fund refugee resettlement in non-EU countries like Turkey and Pakistan, offer immediate but temporary EU protection to Afghans. – Politico 

America may have abandoned Afghanistan, but the most prominent anti-Taliban rebel in the country is pinning his hopes on support from France. – Politico 

Kiev sees the soon-to-be completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline carrying Russian gas to Europe and bypassing Ukraine as “a dangerous geopolitical weapon”, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday. – Agence France-Presse 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will ask U.S. President Joe Biden to extend the evacuation deadline from Afghanistan when Group of Seven leaders discuss the crisis on Tuesday, two UK ministers said. – Reuters 

Austria’s conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz opposes taking in any more people fleeing Afghanistan now that the Taliban have seized power, he said in remarks published on Sunday. – Reuters 

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sunday signed a decree imposing sanctions on Andriy Derkach, the Ukrainian lawmaker accused by the United States of being a Russian agent and interfering in U.S. elections, the presidential office said. – Reuters 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Lithuania’s foreign minister on Saturday and agreed on “bilateral coordinated action” to help the country withstand pressure from China over its decision to develop ties with Taiwan, Lithuania said. – Reuters 

Britain plans to push world leaders to consider new sanctions on the Taliban when the G7 group of advanced economies meet on Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan, sources told Reuters. – Reuters 

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya writes: The regime, to be sure, could try to buy time for itself — by imitating reform and trying to trade the release of political prisoners for a softening of sanctions, as some state diplomats have suggested. The world should not be fooled. Instead, through strong and united support, the democratic nations across the globe can help Belarus step out of dictatorship and into freedom. – New York Times 


The Ministry of Defense has not said how many new recruits it has signed up, but the spokesman for Sintayehu Abate, deputy mayor of Addis Ababa, the capital, has said that 3,000 residents of the city have enlisted since the campaign started and that thousands more have reportedly signed up around the country. – New York Times 

Gunmen have released 15 more students who were abducted from their high school in northern Nigeria last month, authorities said Sunday. The kidnappers are believed to still be holding 65 others taken from the school. – Associated Press 

At least 16 people have been killed in an attack on a village in southwestern Niger where Islamist militants have repeatedly massacred civilians this year, a local official and a security source said on Saturday. – Reuters 

United States

At the center of the scramble to airlift American citizens out of Afghanistan after its fall to the Taliban is a simple question: How many Americans are waiting to be evacuated? – New York Times 

Ken Cuccinelli writes: If ever faced with a similar situation in the future, America should stay with the straightforward and proven plan that brought such success in the first three months in Afghanistan, not the endless plan that followed that brought us almost 20 years of failure, death, and debt. – Washington Examiner 

Robert L. Wilkie writes: Even in Europe, the message is one that America is falling back. The Trump administration provided advanced anti-tank weapons to Ukraine after former President Barack Obama refused to do so for years. The Biden administration unilaterally choked off the flow of military supplies to Ukraine, in the hope that Moscow would reciprocate. Instead, Russian President Vladimir Putin has moved tens of thousands of troops to the border opposite Ukraine and continues to wage war on the cyber commons vital to American security. – Heritage Foundation 


Facebook says it has added several security features to help people in Afghanistan control their accounts as fears rise of reprisals from the Taliban. – New York Times 

Of all the cyberthreats facing the Jewish state, those targeting Israel’s waterways can be especially devastating. Some 95% of the country’s imports like energy, food, and industrial and defense goods arrive via maritime freight, with virtually none coming across the land borders with its Middle East neighbors. – Algemeiner 

Taliban websites that delivered the victorious insurgents’ official messages to Afghans and the world at large in five languages have abruptly gone offline. – Associated Press 

Cybèle C. Greenberg writes: With proper controls and some rules of the road, cyberwar between nations may not be all that bad. Instead of endangering lives, it could actually help save them. That’s an important idea to keep in mind when news of the next big hack breaks. – New York Times 

Douglas E. Schoen writes: And if companies such as Alphabet and Facebook do not recognize this by making meaningful changes to their practices — which, thus far, they have not — the federal government needs to urgently step in in order to make news and information a freer and fairer industry. –The Hill 


The Missile Defense Agency director says he’d like to see the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system — which currently requires significant permanent infrastructure — become a less complex and more mobile asset. The U.S. has had a fully operational Aegis Ashore site in Deveselu, Romania, since 2016, but has struggled to build a second fixed site in Redzikowo, Poland. – Defense News 

For months, top officials at the Defense Department have been working toward declassifying the existence of a secret space weapon program and providing a real-world demonstration of its capabilities, Breaking Defense has learned. – Breaking Defense 

The messy withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and the subsequent scramble to protect civilians who aided the American war effort are triggering a ripple effect of concern among allies who rely on the United States for military protection. – The Hill 

Anne Applebaum writes: We might prefer a different world, one where we can stay out of their way and they will stay out of ours. But that’s not the world that we live in. In the real world, the battle to defend liberal democracy is sometimes a real battle, a military battle, not merely an ideological battle. It cannot always be fought with language, arguments, conferences, or diplomacy, or by deploying human-rights organizations, UN declarations, and fierce EU statements of concern. Or rather, you can try to fight it that way, but you will lose. – The Atlantic 

Sebastien Roblin writes: While an unmanned turret poses some difficulties—including the risk of blinding the crew if the sensors are knocked out—it does mean that there’s a good chance that the crew can survive a hit to the turret. Even if the turret is put out of action and the tank needs to withdraw for repairs, keeping flesh-and-blood crew alive is the name of the game for modern, professional militaries. A tank can maximize the chance it will take any hits on the turret by deploying in a hull-down position—that is, with only the turret peeking above the crest of a hill. – The National Interest 

Long War

Chad has decided to recall half of its 1,200 troops battling Islamist militants in the tri-border area of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, a spokesperson for the Chadian authorities said on Saturday. – Reuters 

The Taliban, its Al-Qaeda ally, and the renegade ISIS-K terror group may have inherited hundreds of deadly shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles from the fallen Afghan government’s weapons depots, experts tell SpyTalk. – SpyTalk 

During remarks at the White House on Friday, President Biden asked: “What interest do we have in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda gone?” But terrorism expert Thomas Joscelyn points out that Biden’s claim is false: A recent United Nations report said that “large numbers of Al-Qaida fighters and other foreign extremist elements aligned with the Taliban are located in various parts of Afghanistan.” – National Review