Fdd's overnight brief

August 25, 2021

In The News


President Biden on Tuesday reaffirmed his intent to complete the U.S. evacuation mission in Afghanistan by Aug. 31, but he also ordered contingency plans if that cannot be accomplished — a position that stoked a new round of outrage and confusion about the United States’ exit from a two-decade war. – Washington Post  

Two members of Congress made an unauthorized whirlwind trip to Kabul early Tuesday, leaving less than 24 hours later on a flight used for evacuating U.S. citizens, allies and vulnerable Afghans. – Washington Post

Just days after the Taliban swept into the capital and toppled the government in a lightning offensive, a group of former mujahedeen fighters and Afghan commandos said they had regrouped and begun a war of resistance in the last area in Afghanistan not under Taliban control. – New York Times 

“We lost my family,” she recounted Tuesday afternoon, sitting outside a hangar on Ramstein Air Base, the largest U.S. Air Force base in Europe and now an evacuation hub for thousands of Afghans fleeing the Taliban advance. […]Hers is just one in a sea of stories here that underscore the complications of the mammoth effort to extract both Afghans at risk and Americans who were stranded in Kabul and get them to safety. – Washington Post  

The Taliban has blocked Afghans from Kabul airport — and is trying to lure key officials back to work — as President Biden announced that the United States is on track to leave Afghanistan by Aug. 31. – Washington Post  

The World Bank suspended funding for dozens of projects in Afghanistan Tuesday, citing questions over the legitimacy of Taliban rule. The Washington-based institution has committed around $5.3 billion for reconstruction and development projects in Afghanistan since 2002 through its International Development Association that helps the world’s poorest countries. – Wall Street Journal  

The Americans are all but gone, the Afghan government has collapsed, and the Taliban rule the streets of Kabul now. Overnight, millions of Kabul residents have been left to navigate an uncertain transition after 20 years of U.S.-backed rule. – New York Times  

U.S. officials are moving to improve conditions at an American air base in Qatar that is serving as a temporary hub for many Afghan evacuees, following reports of rat infestation, loose human feces and vomit. – Washington Post  

Airbnb Inc. will offer free, temporary housing for 20,000 Afghan refugees around the world, the company said Tuesday. Airbnb and Airbnb.org, a nonprofit established by the home-sharing company that works to provide housing during crises, will fund and place refugees fleeing Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, working with resettlement agencies and nongovernment organizations to determine their needs. – Wall Street Journal 

More than 70,700 people had been evacuated from Afghanistan as of Tuesday evening. Nearly 6,000 American troops are protecting the international airport in Kabul, the capital. And additional U.S. flights are leaving every 45 minutes. – New York Times  

When the Taliban were last in power, Afghan women were generally not allowed to leave their homes except under certain narrowly defined conditions. Those who did risked being beaten, tortured or executed. – New York Times  

US President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he aims to have all US forces out of Afghanistan by August 31, ending a massive two-week airlift from the country at the risk of leaving potential evacuees behind. – How was August 31 set? – Agence France-Presse  

British foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Wednesday that the deadline for evacuating people from Afghanistan was up to the last minute of this month. – Reuters 

It is “very probable” that France’s operations to evacuate its citizens and partners from Afghanistan will end on Thursday, French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune told C News TV. – Reuters 

The United States has decided against the idea of using its largest overseas military bases in South Korea and Japan to temporarily house Afghan refugees, two sources with close knowledge of the matter told Reuters. – Reuters 

Taliban fighters have taken over some U.N. compounds in Afghanistan, searching and ransacking offices and in one case demanding the guards provide meals for a commander and his men, according to an internal U.N. report seen by Reuters. – Reuters 

Afghanistan’s Taliban has appointed former Guantanamo detainee mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir as acting defense minister, Qatari based Al Jazeera news channel reported on Tuesday, citing a source in the Islamist movement. – Reuters 

The European Union will continue to advocate democracy and human rights in the world beyond the end of the Western military mission in Afghanistan, European Council President Charles Michel said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Britain’s evacuation from Kabul is expected to end within “24 to 36 hours”, potentially abandoning thousands of Afghans, defence sources said as the increasingly bullish Taliban moved to prevent them travelling to the airport to flee. – The Guardian  

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet is to report back in the September-October session on the situation in Afghanistan and any violations committed by the Taliban under a resolution agreed by the Human Rights Council on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Russia, China, the United States and Pakistan are interested in serving as mediators in resolving the crisis in Afghanistan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Tens of thousands of Afghans awaiting U.S. visas and thousands of American citizens are still stuck in Kabul, unable to find safe passage through frantic crowds, Taliban checkpoints and Afghan guards stationed outside the airport. – Politico  

The Biden administration has asked refugee aid organizations to prepare to receive and resettle as many as 50,000 Afghans evacuated under a stopgap program as the U.S. accelerates flights out of Kabul ahead of an end-of-August deadline, according to three people familiar with the discussions. – Bloomberg 

The brother of a famed slain Afghan militia leader whose son now leads a coalition of militias resisting the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is calling for a power-sharing agreement that would limit the spread of the group’s interpretation of Islamic Sharia law across the country. – Newsweek  

The new movement is known as the National Resistance Front (NRF) of Afghanistan. Afghan journalist Muslim Shirzad noted that some renowned anti-Taliban commanders of the past are among the resistance forces in the Panjshir Valley, including Pir Mohammad Khaksar, Gul Haider Khan, and Saleh Mohammad Registani. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

Editorial: Mr. Biden’s bloody-minded refusal to adapt to the collapse of the Afghan government and military is another reminder that electing a U.S. President is a fateful choice. Character matters, but character has many parts. One is judgment, and another is the courage to admit a mistake and regroup. Mr. Biden is failing on both counts. With three-and-a-half years to go in his Presidency, the world is going to become much more dangerous. – Wall Street Journal 

Editorial: The evacuation of Americans and allies from Kabul would have been messy “no matter when it started,” President Biden insisted on Sunday. But U.S. citizens and Afghan allies should never have had to crowd to the airport at the mercy of Taliban checkpoints, as many still are several days after thousands of U.S. troops arrived. – Wall Street Journal 

Editorial: Indeed, some troops have started leaving already. Meanwhile, the Taliban set up a new blockade of the airport road in Kabul to prevent more Afghans from leaving. If Mr. Biden opposes that, he did not say so in his speech. Mr. Biden, in short, has accepted a series of conditions that seems to make it much more difficult to keep the promises of evacuation he has made or strongly implied. – Washington Post  

Arthur Herman writes: This week came news reports of an Oklahoma mother helping the evacuation of 10 members of Afghanistan’s all-girl robotics engineering team. Washington policy makers should follow her example. Afghan refugees have already risked their lives to serve America. Now they will inject new meaning into the American experiment. – Wall Street Journal 

Phan Quang Tue writing: A war does not end with a cessation of military battles. It continues with a more human aspect: how the refugees from that conflict and its aftermath are cared for. Coming from a country torn by war over many decades, many of the Afghans now being evacuated have been internally displaced more than once in their lives. […]Their new neighbors should remember that this is not the first move many Afghans new to the United States have made, but it might be the most dramatic. – Washington Post  

Charles Lane writes: The United States is treating itself to political arguments over what went wrong in Afghanistan, with the president leading the condemnation of “nation-building,” and citing its inevitable failure as a reason to liquidate our 20-year investment. AUAF’s story reminds us that, however misconceived or mismanaged U.S. efforts in Afghanistan might have been, there were bright spots, and that, in any case, real people — flesh-and-blood human beings — staked their lives on this country’s promises. – Washington Post  

Marc Thiessen writes: In other words, Biden’s claim that we have an “over the horizon” capability to combat an al-Qaeda resurgence is a joke. It took more than seven years for the United States to drive the Islamic State from the caliphate Biden handed them in 2011. Now, Biden has handed the global jihadist movement a new radical Islamic emirate in Afghanistan to replace it. – Washington Post  

David Ignatius writes: As the Biden team struggles to craft its strategy for postwar Afghanistan, the central questions will involve its awkward relationship with the Taliban. Can this militant group ever become a reliable partner? Does the United States want to see the Taliban succeed or fail in its efforts to stabilize and rule the country? Under what conditions should Biden recognize a Taliban-led government in Kabul? – Washington Post  

Kathleen Parker writes: Biden may have believed chaos was unavoidable, war being the most-direct route thereto. But he can’t have it every which way. It seems to me that one should always expect chaos under most circumstances and plan accordingly. Maybe Biden’s biggest mistake was taking the wrong advice — or ignoring what he didn’t want to imagine. – Washington Post  

Therese Raphael writes: Much depends on how the U.S. administration digests the lessons from the Afghanistan withdrawal. Biden’s posture has been largely to deny there was an alternative, which is absurd. The G6 know that there is no replacement for the economic, military and cultural power the U.S. brings to the table. But they will be looking for a little more humility given what Afghans are suffering, and a sign that the Biden doctrine is more nuanced and coherent than the policies of the Trump era. – Bloomberg 

Ajmal Ahmady writes: The international community should try to make the flow as humane as possible, rather than forcing middle class Afghan families to pay smugglers to transport them across borders. Afghanistan is once again facing a blanket of darkness, and the future there is as uncertain as ever. The scenes from the airport will haunt us for a long time to come. But let us take action now to ensure that the result is not a humanitarian crisis as well. – Financial Times 

Kori Schake writes: The Biden team made costly choices and is counting on public apathy to prevent any political blowback at home, even calculating that the horrifying images of Afghans desperate to flee the country will eventually benefit the president politically. Reputations matter in international politics, and the Biden administration has just earned a bad one. – Foreign Affairs 

Mahan Mirza writes: With these looming questions, President Joe Biden needs to think fast. The option to go back in militarily is, at this point, unthinkable. Isolating the Taliban would only cede further ground to regional players like China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan. Antagonizing the Taliban by fomenting dissent risks, once again, a descent into the very chaos that has brought us to this point. – The Hill  

Anthony H. Cordesman writes: Congress also needs to fully understand that the cost of learning the right lessons from this war will be negligible compared to the cost of failing to learn. Important as China and Russia may be, the U.S. will still face many more struggles against terrorism, irregular warfare, and insurgencies. It will still have to deal with a world where at least 20% of the countries are now fragile states, and where the U.S. must find the right path to a real “whole of government” approach and adequate contingency planning. – Center for Strategic and International Studies  

Vinay Kaura writes: Despite their public claims to support inclusiveness, the Taliban 2.0 seem to retain an obscurantist and repressive interpretation of Islam, but it is reasonable to believe that they have acquired a far more nuanced understanding of regional dynamics and a different geopolitical perspective than their predecessor. […]Nevertheless, as they form a government and move forward, if the Taliban do not take along all of the country’s ethnic groups, the violence and instability that have ravaged Afghanistan for the past four decades will doubtless continue. – Middle East Institute 

Michael O’Hanlon writes: But it would be a major mistake to forget how much leverage we retain, in the form of both carrots and sticks. Staying an extra ten or twenty or thirty days—or whatever we deem necessary in the end—is not only the right thing to do by way of honoring and protecting our brave friends and allies. It is what is now needed to begin the process of restoring American credibility, not only in the eyes of the Taliban but the rest of the world, as the Biden administration attempts to regain its sea legs after an absolutely terrible month. – The National Interest 


The head of Iran’s prison authority apologized Tuesday after a hacker group released footage showing guards beating and kicking inmates at a notorious prison for political detainees and foreigners. The footage, from northern Tehran’s Evin Prison, was distributed to news outlets including the Associated Press, which first reported on the leaked video and said time stamps on the footage showed it was recorded in 2020 and this year. – Washington Post  

Days ahead of his first visit as prime minister to Washington, Naftali Bennett told a bipartisan group of congressmen that it is in America’s national security interest to prevent the nuclear arms race that would occur were Iran to attain nuclear weapons capability, a participant in the meeting told the Times of Israel on Tuesday. – Times of Israel  

In an article published Monday by the New York Review, writer and rights activist Roya Hakakian revealed that she was informed by two FBI agents visiting her home in rural Connecticut in August 2019 that she might be killed by Iranian agents in the United States, where she has lived since leaving Iran in 1985. – Iran International  

Editorial: It is important that Biden is able to openly display his friendship and support for the State of Israel while acknowledging that the two countries can disagree on some of the issues like Iran or steps needed to advance a resolution to the conflict with the Palestinians. And it is equally important for Bennett to follow suit and show the world that Washington has no stronger ally than Israel. – Jerusalem Post  

 Nancy W. Gallagher‬ writes: The most realistic way to address concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and regional behavior is for Biden to take some risks and spend some political capital to convince Raisi and the rest of Iran’s leadership to give diplomacy another chance. Biden will have to do more than the Obama administration did to make sure the Iranian people see tangible benefits flowing from cooperative engagement. None of this will be easy, but it is essential. It can only be done, though, if we have a better understanding of who we are dealing with and what they really want. – War on the Rocks 


An explosion shook the base of an al-Qaida-linked group in northern Syria on Tuesday, killing at least eight gunmen and wounding others, opposition activists said. The explosion came as opposition fighters suffered a major setback in southern Daraa province, where a Russian-brokered deal led to the evacuation of gunmen from the region. – Associated Press  

Russian forces moved into an opposition enclave in the Syrian city of Deraa on Tuesday to try to avert an army assault on a stronghold that has defied state authority since it was retaken three years ago, witnesses, residents, and army sources said. – Reuters 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Russia may know something that the West does not. This may be the beginning of a new round of chaos in eastern Syria or a coordinated Russia-Iran-Turkey decision to oust the US from eastern Syria, now that the US has left Afghanistan. – Jerusalem Post  


Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar on Tuesday criticised a decision by Greek Cypriot rivals to rescind his passport, saying the move was designed to undermine his community. […]Tens of thousands of Turkish Cypriots, including Tatar, held or hold Republic of Cyprus passports even though they reside in North Cyprus, recognised only by Ankara. – Reuters 

Plain concrete gravestones painted with a number and the word “Afghan” are all that mark the final resting places of dozens of unidentified migrants who died trying to enter Turkey through the rugged mountainous border with Iran. Hundreds of people escaping conflict or poverty, mostly from Afghanistan but also from other countries in the region, have died over the years risking the perilous crossing. – Associated Press 

Abu Dhabi conglomerate International Holding Co is seeking investment opportunities in Turkey in sectors including healthcare, industrial and food processing, its chief executive Syed Basar Shueb said. The move comes as relations between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Turkey show signs of improvement following Ankara’s move to ease tensions with several Arab powers. – Reuters  


Hamas-backed Palestinian activists on Tuesday in the Gaza Strip launched a new wave of incendiary balloons into Israel, further raising tensions after a night of Israeli airstrikes on the seaside territory. The enemy sides this week have engaged in their heaviest cross-border fighting since an 11-day war in May. In the occupied West Bank, meanwhile, officials said a Palestinian teen was killed in a clash with the Israeli military. – Associated Press 

The UN and the EU expressed concern Tuesday over a spate of arrests of activists by Palestinian security forces, amid sustained protests following the death of a leading government critic. – Agence France-Presse  

Since 2008, more than 4,000 Palestinians have been killed in the conflicts, over half of them civilians. The Israeli death toll stands at 106. The Islamic militants, who reject Israel’s right to exist, have fired thousands of rockets across the border. Israel, which considers Hamas a terrorist organization, has repeatedly hit the Strip with overwhelming firepower that, despite its high-tech precision, continues to kill civilians. – Associated Press  

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will push U.S. President Joe Biden to harden his approach to Iran during his first White House visit, with few prospects their talks will lead to renewed movement on Israeli-Palestinian peace. – Reuters 

Hamas agreed on Tuesday to stop launching incendiary balloons from Gaza into Israel following talks with Egypt, Palestinian media Al-Ayyam reported. The launching of incendiary balloons set off fires in southern Israel on Monday and provoked retaliation from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), hitting several Hamas targets on Monday evening. – I24  

As Western forces leave Afghanistan, Israeli weapons systems will no longer hunt Taliban fighters. Though Israeli troops have never been on the ground in the war-torn central Asian country, numerous coalition nations used Israeli systems during the 20 years of fighting against the radical jihadist terrorist group. – Jerusalem Post  

Kobi Michael and Yoel Guzansky write: Israel should work to enlist the Biden administration to support growing the Abraham Accords into a platform for regional cooperation against Iran. […]A persuasive argument to the administration to support a stronger regional partnership would contribute to regional stability, and help shape a countervailing power against the proxies seeking to perpetuate conflicts. Such an arrangement would also provide the United States with a sphere of flexibility in which it can simultaneously confront both regional and global problems likely to be fueled by the Taliban’s victory. – Washington Institute 

Dr. Eric R. Mandel writes: A vacuum created in Syria and Iraq by an American withdrawal would shift the burden to Israel’s doorstep. Bennett would want a heads-up, because an American withdrawal from Syria and Iraq could set Israel and its neighbors on fire. – The Hill  

Muhammad Shehada writes: Looking to Afghanistan, they will now argue that extremists will certainly take over. This perspective, wrong though it is, has been central to the Israeli Right’s pushback against calls for ending Israel’s occupation, and Afghanistan’s case, no matter how different from Palestine, will be exploited to boost this spin. – Newsweek  

Gulf States

Nine activists from Bahrain had their iPhones hacked by advanced spyware made by Israel’s NSO Group, the world’s most infamous hacker-for-hire firm, a cybersecurity watchdog reported on Tuesday. – Times of Israel  

Israel Aerospace Industries said on Wednesday it signed an agreement with Etihad Engineering to establish a facility in Abu Dhabi that will convert Boeing 777-300ER passenger planes into cargo aircraft. – Reuters 

The first flight carrying at-risk Afghan evacuees arrived in Kuwait, which has approved passage for 5,000 under an agreement with the United States following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the U.S. envoy said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s takeover of the country, Saudi columnist Safouq Al-Shammari wrote that the Biden administration’s policy is feeble and dangerous, and that the allies of the U.S. must understand that they cannot rely on it to eliminate the Iranian threat. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

Gerald M. Feierstein and Yoel Guzansky write: The U.S. can and should encourage Riyadh’s return to a foreign policy based on diplomacy, mediation, and smart foreign aid, especially against the backdrop of its desire to somewhat reduce its military and diplomatic presence in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is a central regional player that cannot be ignored without U.S. interests being harmed. Its economic, religious, and political weight is an asset for any American administration seeking to promote a more stable, more secure region in the future. – Middle East Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

Algeria cut diplomatic ties with Morocco, citing what it claimed were hostile acts, plunging decades of difficult relations between the North African neighbors to their lowest point since the 1970s. – Bloomberg 

Iraq has invited Iran and Tehran’s Gulf Arab foes to a summit in Baghdad with the aim of calming tensions which have brought them close to open conflict in recent years. – Reuters 

Tunisia’s populist president has tightened his grip on power by extending his suspension of parliament, widely seen as a sign that the country’s democracy is in crisis. – Financial Times 

Korean Peninsula

Until a few years ago, Americans traveled to North Korea for a host of reasons. Korean Americans reunited with loved ones from whom they were separated during the Korean War. […] Now, humanitarian groups and other advocates are urging the Biden administration to lift the travel ban, which is set to expire on Sept. 1 after being renewed every year since it took effect. – Washington Post  

The United Nations-backed global vaccination effort is offering a new allocation of coronavirus vaccine to North Korea, one of a few countries yet to start inoculating residents after a delay in a distribution program slated to begin this summer. – Washington Post  

A South Korean parliamentary committee voted early on Wednesday to recommend amending a law, a key step toward banning Google and Apple from forcibly charging software developers commissions on in-app purchases, the first such curb by a major economy. – Reuters 

Seoul is calling on the Biden administration to help Korean companies access intellectual property for producing Covid-19 jabs, as the highly infectious Delta variant prompts a reassessment of global vaccine requirements. – Financial Times 


Hong Kong will scrutinise past films for national security breaches under a tough new censorship law announced on Tuesday in the latest blow to the financial hub’s political and artistic freedoms. – Agence France-Presse  

Five candidates pledging “professionalism” over politics swept an election for Hong Kong’s Law Society council early Wednesday, shattering the hopes of a camp that wanted tougher action to defend the rule of law in the global financial hub. – Reuters 

China’s envoy told the U.N. Human Rights Council on Tuesday that the U.S. army and the militaries of its coalition partners should be held accountable for rights violations allegedly committed in Afghanistan. – Reuters 

U.S. climate envoy John F. Kerry is expected to travel to China next month to continue his efforts to carve out climate change as an area of closer collaboration amid deepening tensions between the two countries, according to two people familiar with the plans. – Reuters 

Chinese forces are conducting live-fire drills in the South China Sea, greeting Vice President Kamala Harris with a show of force even as U.S. officials attempt to assemble an international coalition to manage prospective threats from Beijing. – Washington Examiner  

China’s new JF-22 hypersonic wind tunnel is expected to be ready for use in 2022, according to a 22 August report by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). – Jane’s 360  

Following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Chinese Communist Party media outlets published cartoons depicting the U.S. as hypocritical and concerned only for its own interests. One major theme in both media and cartoons was comparing this event to the end of the Vietnam War and the capture of Saigon in 1975. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

Joseph Bosco writes: Beijing long has gotten away with threats of force against Taiwan through its moves short of kinetic action in the “gray zone.” Flying military aircraft over Taiwan as a direct provocation would make it a very dark gray zone and would virtually constitute an act of war. Biden needs to tell Xi that brinkmanship over Taiwan is no longer acceptable in a peaceful relationship with the United States. – The Hill  

Minxin Pei writes: Someday China may decide to seize Taiwan by force. If that happens, it will be because Chinese leaders believe that their attempts at peaceful unification have failed and that they can defeat the U.S. should it decide to intervene. Fortunately, that day remains a long way off. – Bloomberg 

Robert R. Bianchi writes: The Biden administration should abandon its chosen course of confrontation, ideological posturing, and rhetorical bluster. The last thing we need is an American version of China’s wolf warrior diplomacy. […]If the U.S. insists on competing with China for the title of most benevolent hegemon, both sides will fail. No nation can provide any set of public goods — economic or military — that will earn legitimacy and acquiescence from independent states or from the newly assertive movements of global civil society. – Middle East Institute 

Gordon G. Chang writes: America wants to have a good relationship with China as we do with other countries. It’s just that China has made that extremely difficult, especially in recent years. China should understand that the rules-based international system is something that they benefit from. But in fact, they don’t. And recently, we’ve even heard from the Chinese foreign ministry that they reject the rules-based international order. – Newsweek  

Azeem Ibrahim writes: Particularly remarkable are the motivations which drove the Lithuanian government towards this diplomatic stance, with all its attendant risks. Even as Beijing’s previously promised investments in Eastern Europe are failing to bear fruit, the European capitals in general, including Western ones, are increasingly wary of China’s aggressive use of economic leverage to extract political concessions from its partners. – The National Interest 


Vice President Kamala Harris sought to fortify the image of the United States as a credible ally by offering a sharp rebuke of China during an address on Tuesday in Southeast Asia. Her effort comes as the White House faces growing questions about its reliability as an international partner amid continuing violence in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. – New York Times  

The ruling parties of Japan and Taiwan will hold their first security talks this week, with bilateral concerns about increasing Chinese military strength likely to be top of the agenda. – Bloomberg 

A plane carrying more than 75 Afghan female soccer players, officials and relatives under threat from the Taliban left Kabul on Tuesday, bound for Australia, the first country to offer a haven in response to pleas from a multinational network of athlete advocates and human-rights lawyers. – Washington Post 

Pope Francis has sent more than 350,000 euros ($411,000) in charity funds at his personal disposal to help with emergency relief in Haiti, Bangladesh and Vietnam, the Vatican said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared he will run for vice president next year to continue his “crusade” against drugs and insurgents — a move critics said was a “smokescreen” and driven by fear of criminal charges. – Agence France-Presse  

Hundreds of Afghan refugees living in Indonesia, mostly members of the Hazara ethnic minority, held a rally on Tuesday decrying the Taliban’s takeover of their country and calling for resettlement in third countries. Indonesia is not a signatory to the U.N. Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol, and the government doesn’t allow asylum seekers to work or have access to schools and public hospitals. – Associated Press  

A Russian man from a Russian-held island claimed by both Tokyo and Moscow is seeking asylum after being found in a wetsuit on Japan’s northern main island of Hokkaido, media reports and officials said Wednesday. – Associated Press  

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen talked up her country’s missile deterrence on Monday and called on the armed forces to “anticipate the enemy” as reports emerge of a $7 billion special budget to ramp up the island’s precision strike capabilities. – Newsweek  


King Abdullah II of Jordan met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. They discussed the situation in Syria and Afghanistan, according to Russian media reports. “Of course, we hope for an exchange of views on the most pressing matters…They are the normalization of the situation in Syria and the current escalation in Afghanistan,” Putin said. – Jerusalem Post  

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in Afghanistan in a phone call with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, the Kremlin said in a statement. – Reuters 

Russia will evacuate more than 500 people from Afghanistan, including Russian and other citizens, the Interfax news agency reported on Wednesday, citing Russia’s Defence Ministry. – Reuters 

Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the United States and its allies for leaving Afghanistan, saying the withdrawal may present problems for Russia and its allies. – Newsweek  

Russia’s Defense Ministry has signed a deal with a contractor to deliver Tsirkon hypersonic missiles to Russian troops by 2025, as President Vladimir Putin has vowed to put the weapons on “combat alert.” – Newsweek  

John Ruehl writes: Though hundreds of miles distant, Russia’s military strength and connection to Afghanistan through Central Asia suggest a powerful role in Afghanistan’s future affairs. But the Kremlin’s ambitions will be complicated by China’s economic power, Iranian and Pakistani cultural influence, and the entrenched presence of the Taliban. – The National Interest 


Hungary should remain a member of European Union, its top diplomat said, after leading ruling-party politicians revived a debate into whether the country should follow Britain example and exit the bloc. – Bloomberg 

The German Navy plans to equip its F124 frigates with new radars that expand the vessels’ capabilities into the field of ballistic missile defense, the German military acquisition branch announced Aug. 24. – Defense News  

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Tuesday it was vital for the Group of Seven wealthy nations and Europe to adopt a common policy on immigration from Afghanistan as they rush to pull people out of the country by an Aug. 31 deadline. – Reuters 

Gideon Taylor writes: Holocaust survivor Dr. Miriam Tasini’s quest for justice is just one of many that will be personally impacted by this new law in Poland. […]Progress on Holocaust justice depends upon continued and heightened United States leadership. We must help survivors secure what is rightfully theirs. For Holocaust survivors, restitution or compensation for property is about justice and fairness. It is an acknowledgment of the destruction of their families and an opportunity to restore and reconnect with at least a small part of a life and culture that was so wrongfully taken from them. – Algemeiner  


With major constitutional changes suspended for now, and swirling new alliances taking shape, Kenya’s political scene is shrouded in uncertainty as the country eyes crucial elections due a year from now. – Agence France-Presse  

 The United States and European Union are raising alarm over the recent deployment of troops from Eritrea to Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where nine months of war have killed thousands of people and sparked a worsening humanitarian crisis. – Reuters 

Gunmen killed two Nigerian military personnel and abducted another in an attack on an army training college in the northern state of Kaduna on Tuesday, a spokesman said, highlighting the authorities’ loss of control over escalating violence. – Reuters 

Six of the 136 students kidnapped from an Islamic school in the north-central Nigerian state of Niger have died of illness, the school principal told Reuters on Monday. – Reuters 

Zambia’s new president, longtime opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, has been sworn into power, raising hopes in the southern African country that in recent years has swung from prosperity and stability to massive debt, recession and repression. – Associated Press  

The Americas

And Mexico’s role in the rescue of journalists from The Times and, if all goes as planned, The Wall Street Journal offers a disorienting glimpse of the state of the American government as two of the country’s most powerful news organizations frantically sought help far from Washington. – New York Times  

Former Mexican drug cartel leader Eduardo Arellano Felix was handed over by the United States to Mexico on Monday to face criminal charges, including organized crime, after serving time in a U.S. federal prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. – Reuters 

Three U.S. Navy ships and more Marine aircraft have joined in the U.S. effort for disaster relief in Haiti, Pentagon officials said on Tuesday. The military is on station to support the U.S. Agency for International Development relief effort following the Aug. 14 earthquake. The military response is led by Rear Adm. Keith Davids, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command South. – USNI News  

With U.S. sanctions spooking key oil buyers and depriving its government of cash, Venezuela last year inked a deal with a little-known local company to swap crude for food, Reuters has learned. – Reuters  

United States

President Biden on Tuesday received a classified report from the intelligence community that was inconclusive about the origins of the novel coronavirus, including whether the pathogen jumped from an animal to a human as part of a natural process, or escaped from a lab in central China, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter. – Washington Post  

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said the Biden administration must comply with a lower court’s ruling to reinstate President Donald Trump’s policy that required many asylum seekers to wait outside the United States for their cases to be decided. – Washington Post  

With President Joe Biden intending to stick to the Aug. 31 deadline for U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan, it’s becoming clear that thousands of the Afghans who helped the U.S. won’t be evacuated, a scenario that has engendered deep frustration inside U.S. national security agencies. – NBC  

Editorial: Biden has only himself to blame for the political disaster that is enveloping him. If he always knew pulling out of Afghanistan was going to be chaotic, then he shouldn’t have said just a month earlier that it was going to go smoothly. He can’t fix that now. What he can do, however, is change the bragging, blustering, dishonest habits of a lifetime, learn some humility, take criticism seriously, and stop talking nonsense about everything being OK in Kabul. – Washington Examiner  

Ramesh Ponnuru writes: The eighth reason for the bad press is the most important: The news that’s being reported is just bad. Biden wouldn’t have had to send troops back to Afghanistan if it weren’t. When Republicans in Trump’s first weeks in office complained that the press was not letting him have a traditional presidential honeymoon, it rang hollow: When your national security adviser has to go after 23 days on the job, there’s no way to make it a positive story. There’s no way to make this story good either. Biden’s problem isn’t a biased press; it’s a recalcitrant reality. – Bloomberg 

Marti Flacks writes: The U.S. government’s posture on human rights in the next four months will largely define its credibility and effectiveness on this issue for the next four years. Although the tragic events in Afghanistan render the administration’s efforts more difficult, there is still a critical window of opportunity for the Biden administration to build a robust and effective global human rights agenda. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Jacob Kurtzer writes: Humanitarian aid is not a panacea, nor can it be a substitute for an emphasis on the achievement of fundamental rights. It also, however, shouldn’t be a bargaining chip. The United States should continue to seek all possible means to ensure the rights and safety of vulnerable Afghans, in particular women and girls. In the intervening period, humanitarian assistance can play a meaningful part in helping vulnerable Afghans meet their basic needs. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


Joe Biden will meet more than 20 chief executives from the technology, energy, banking, insurance and education sectors at the White House on Wednesday to discuss broad deficiencies in US cyber security. – Financial Times 

The U.S. Space Force’s next generation of missile warning satellites has passed a major design milestone, clearing the way for fabrication and integration to begin. – C4ISRNET  

Natalie Thompson and Laura Bate write: The proposed Cyberspace Policy Coordinating Committee would ensure that officials at the assistant secretary level or higher from across the department can weigh in on matters of concern for their respective portfolios. With a new cyberspace policy bureau, a coordinating committee, and enhancements to emerging technology capacity in its existing regional and functional bureaus, the State Department would be structured to handle the digital age effectively. – War on the Rocks 


Shortly after the United States military successfully carried out its first live-fire test of the Iron Dome missile defense system, the Army decided against the Israeli-made system for its enduring system to counter aerial threats. – Jerusalem Post  

New Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall is accelerating plans to bring the military’s satellite- and rocket-buying responsibilities under one roof. – Defense One  

The next round of upgrades for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s battle command system is expected to deliver a more comprehensive battlefield picture, according to the system’s developer, Lockheed Martin. – Defense News  

The civilian head of the Department of the Navy’s installations has been tapped to fill in as the second-highest civilian in the department, according to a Monday announcement. – USNI news  

The U.S. Army has chosen Leidos-owned Dynetics to build prototypes for its enduring system to counter both drone and cruise missile threats, sources tell Defense News. – Defense News  

The U.S. Navy has completed the initial operational test and evaluation of its Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) program, bringing a key element of the littoral combat ship’s mine countermeasures mission package closer to final approval and fielding. – Defense News 

EOS Defense Systems is outfitting an Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) with a prototype of its R600 Missile Carrier (R600MC) and plans to conduct a live-fire demonstration in December at the US Army’s Redstone Test Center in Alabama. – Jane’s 360  

U.S. Space Command officially declared initial operational capability Aug. 24 at the 36th annual Space Symposium. The announcement comes almost two years to the day after SPACECOM was resurrected as the 11th combatant command, taking over the space operations missions that U.S. Strategic Command had overseen. – Defense News 

The following is the Aug. 23, 2021 Congressional Research Service report Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress. – USNI News   

Long War

Al Shabaab fighters stormed a military base in the centre of Somalia on Tuesday and recaptured a town it lost to government forces earlier this month, eyewitnesses said. – Reuters 

There is an increasing risk of suicide attacks by Islamic State (IS) fighters entering Kabul, a German general said on Tuesday, as Western countries scrambled to evacuate their citizens and local staff before an Aug. 31 deadline. – Reuters 

Security screeners at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar have detected that at least one of the Afghans who was evacuated from Kabul Airport has potential ties to ISIS, a U.S. official confirmed to Defense One. – Defense One 

Jordanian intelligence reported on August 24 that al Qaeda member and Palestinian national Abu Zubaydah was considering mounting attacks in the United States itself. At a time when the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui and the search for the California duo—Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi—were going on, the new report was a major diversion. – Newsweek  

Indian government forces killed two senior rebel commanders and three other militants in two separate counterinsurgency operations in disputed Kashmir, police said Tuesday. – Associated Press