Fdd's overnight brief

September 10, 2021

In The News


Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities allowed 113 Americans, U.S. permanent residents and holders of other Western passports to leave the country on a flight to Qatar on Thursday, the first such departure by air since U.S. forces withdrew last month. – Wall Street Journal 

Many Afghans with U.S. citizenship or residency have close relatives who hold special immigrant visas or other documents that made them eligible for extraction during the U.S.-led airlift mission that ended Aug. 30. But for those who waited for State Department notices that never came or were turned back as they tried to cross airport checkpoints in Kabul, the military’s departure has left them in a dire predicament. – Washington Post 

The United Nations warned on Thursday that the freezing of billions of dollars in Afghan assets to keep them out of Taliban hands would inevitably spark “a severe economic downturn” and could push millions more Afghans into poverty and hunger. – Reuters  

Afghan staff of the United Nations are being increasingly subjected to harassment and intimidation since the Taliban came to power last month, the U.N. special envoy on Afghanistan Deborah Lyons said on Thursday. – Reuters  

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares arrived in Pakistan on Friday to ask for help in securing the evacuation from Afghanistan of people who worked with Spanish forces there. – Reuters

Afghanistan is teetering on the brink of “universal poverty” that could become a reality in the middle of next year unless urgent efforts are made to bolster local communities and their economies, the United Nations development agency said in a report launched Thursday. – Associated Press 

Nearly a month after the Taliban retook Afghanistan in a lightning-fast campaign, the militant group has been unable to get its hands on the Afghan central bank’s nearly $10 billion in reserves. – Business Insider

To the surprise of the international community, which expected Baradar, the Taliban’s chief negotiator, to be appointed leader, the Taliban announced Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund as the new prime minister. – Time 

Editorial: The Biden administration’s bungled exit from Afghanistan leaves the U.S. and its partners few options. What little leverage they have over the new regime won’t last. They must be creative in employing it — and realistic in their goals. […]Without intervention, the Afghan economy could collapse in short order. That could threaten Western nations even more than the new regime — destabilizing the region (which includes a nuclear-armed Pakistan), sending a tide of refugees toward Europe, and opening even more space for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. – Bloomberg  

Editorial: The Biden administration was so disorganized and desperate that officials were just grabbing any Afghan who happened to be nearby and willing to get on a plane. Our military deserved better than this botched withdrawal. So did our diplomats, our Afghan allies, and the unknown number of Americans still trapped inside Afghanistan. So did our nation as a whole. Unfortunately, we seem unlikely to get the truth from the Biden administration. – Washington Examiner  

Michael Gerson writes: And who is most likely to invite such a catastrophic outcome? It is those who say the threat of terrorism is really a myth — despite contrary evidence every morning in the president’s daily intelligence briefing. It is those who argue that the war on terrorism has been a failure — even though the United States has been largely free from two decades of escalating terrorist violence. It is those who would have us unlearn every lesson of the 9/11 attacks and adopt a pose of defiant vulnerability. The alternative to success in the forever war on terrorism is not peace; it is the prospect of warfare on a greater scale. – Washington Post 

Eli Lake writes: As Biden has said many times in the last several months, the post-withdrawal plan is for the U.S. to retain an “over the horizon” capability to target terrorists in Afghanistan. That means the U.S. will need Pakistan’s approval for flights over its airspace. America’s “forever war” in Afghanistan may be over. But just across the border, in Pakistan, America’s former client still holds leverage over the superpower it helped defeat. – Bloomberg  

Kathy Gannon writes: Prolonged economic stagnation could lead to protests by the country’s growing poor who might eventually decide they have little to lose by openly challenging the hard-line rulers. Afghans of 2021 are not the compliant population of 1996 — a time when the Taliban had little trouble imposing their uncompromising edicts. – Associated Press 

Michael Rubin writes: The United States has ended its presence in Afghanistan and its engagement in Iraq may not last much longer. Few in Washington care for self-assessment. […]This would be a mistake, however. The crisis no one saw coming during the campaign has defined the legacy of every president since Jimmy Carter. America may be in a period of retrenchment, but its enemies may not care. Unless the United States commits to understand the reason for its multi-billion training failures, it will be guaranteed to repeat them. – Turkish Policy Quarterly  

Dr. Salem AlKetbi writes: The provisions of sharia law have not changed. It was not the reason for the violation of these rights in the former Taliban regime. Rather, it was the interpretation of Sharia provisions, and the strict application of Afghan traditions. This is where the point of contention lies. The knot is not in the texts, but in its interpretation. The ultraconservative movement still tends to introduce the most hermetic community practices in terms of women’s rights – and the rest can be inferred from there. – Arutz Sheva 


Iran’s foreign minister met his visiting counterpart from U.S.-allied Qatar on Thursday, state media reported, as Tehran and Washington appear to be at an impasse over the fate of talks to revive a 2015 nuclear deal. – Reuters  

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards on Thursday used artillery and drones to strike Kurdish militants based in neighbouring Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region, the Iranian state broadcaster IRIB reported. – Reuters 

US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley had what he called “good and productive” discussions about the Iran nuclear issue with his Russian counterpart in Moscow this week, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Thursday. – Reuters 

European powers and the US will decide on Friday whether to censure Iran in response to a damning report by the UN nuclear inspectorate the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showing that the new hardline government in Tehran had made it impossible for inspectors to oversee the country’s nuclear programme. – The Guardian


Violent riots resumed Thursday night across the West Bank in a repeat of Wednesday night’s hundred-protestors-strong riots in solidarity with the six escaped prisoners from Gilboa prison. – Jerusalem Post 

Israel’s defense establishment is preparing for an escalation in violence in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as the manhunt continues for six security prisoners who escaped from Gilboa Prison earlier this week. – Jerusalem Post 

A report Friday claimed that the Palestinian Authority had agreed to cooperate with an Israeli manhunt for six inmates who escaped from prison earlier this week, some of whom are thought to be hiding out in the West Bank. – Times of Israel 

Soldiers and police officers were put on high alert over fears of widespread violence Friday, after the Hamas terror group declared a “day of rage” in solidarity with six Palestinian security prisoners who broke out of jail earlier this week and remain on the run. – Times of Israel 

A top European Union official has denounced Palestinian Authority textbooks as “deeply problematic” after a study found that the educational materials promote antisemitic tropes, glorify violence against civilians, and erase Israel from maps of the region. – Algemeiner 

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Thursday that Iran’s nuclear program is not only an issue for Israel but the entire world as well. – Ynet 

Yaakov Katz writes: This is Israel’s approach to Gaza, and the same in Israeli prisons, where Palestinian security prisoners receive preferential treatment – satellite TVs, barbecues, ping-pong tables and more – all in an attempt to keep them happy, satisfied and quiet. The problem is that this is anything but a strategy. It is a policy of containment that works as long as rockets aren’t fired from Gaza or prisoners don’t escape their cells. When that happens, everything comes crumbling down, and it’s not just the dirt underneath Gilboa Prison. – Jerusalem Post 

Ruthie Blum writes: The US State Department could not have appointed a more suitable candidate than Dan Shapiro as “liaison to Israel” on the staff of Special Envoy to Iran Robert Malley. […]In other words, he couldn’t have known that Israel would soon be forging incredible peace deals with a number of Arab neighbors, despite Palestinian intransigence. Nor could he have imagined that such a momentous occurrence would be spurred largely by Obama’s utter capitulation to Iran, which never adhered to the terms of the already far-too-lenient JCPOA. Shapiro would do well not to forget this. A lot has transpired since he was ambassador. He should keep it in mind. – Jerusalem Post 

John Bird, Erielle Davidson and Ari Cicurel write: The partnership is symbiotic. In an economic and technological competition with China, the US will benefit from Israel’s cutting-edge research and development — and from keeping that technology out of Chinese hands — while Israel relies on US investment and support to maintain the freedom and vitality of its economic engine. – Breaking Defense 


Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati was on his way to a meeting with President Michel Aoun on Friday with a cabinet line-up that one official source described as “promising”. – Reuters  

Lebanon’s caretaker minister of social affairs on Thursday announced the launch of cash cards for over 500,000 families, a planned step to further curb a $6 billion subsidy programme that has heavily depleted foreign reserves. – Reuters  

Ibrahim Karkouti writes: Today, given the international community’s pledge to help Lebanon, countries are invited to step up support and foster synergies between all Lebanese entities in order to create a functional education system that can raise a new generation of educators who share a sense of national identity, social cohesion, and national unity. […]Nevertheless, for this to occur, Lebanese citizens must realize that they can be part of a solution to a situation that most believe unattainable. – Washington Institute

Chloe Cornish writes: Nationwide fuel shortages, the latest manifestation of Lebanon’s long-running financial crisis, have not spared Hizbollah’s heartlands and are now testing support for the Iran-backed group, which with a powerful militia force and muscular political wing is considered the dominant power in the country. […]Hizbollah is considered to effectively run a shadow state in southern Beirut’s suburbs, the eastern Bekaa Valley and much of south Lebanon, providing social services from education to health. As is the case elsewhere in Lebanon, fuel shortages in Hizbollah-run territory have disrupted supplies of everything from bread to water bottles. – Financial Times

Gulf States

Gulf Air, Bahrain’s flag carrier will launch direct flights for the first time with Israel’s Tel Aviv on Sept. 30, the carrier said in a Twitter post on Thursday. – Reuters  

Saudi Arabia hopes the advent of a caretaker government in Afghanistan will help it to achieve stability and overcome violence and extremism, the kingdom’s foreign minister said on Wednesday at a ministerial meeting devoted to the Afghan crisis. – Reuters 

Henry Petrillo and David Pollock write: While some sectarian differences exist, especially in the emphasis placed on Iran by Shias and on the US or Arab partners by Sunnis, the data demonstrate an overall inclination among all Bahrainis to be more invested in domestic affairs – without confrontations. This augurs well for the island nation’s stability. Yet the relative unpopularity of the Abraham Accord with Israel, and popularity of Hamas, suggest a potential cause for concern going forward. – Washington Institute  

Middle East & North Africa

The Paris appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that found an uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad guilty of acquiring millions of euros’ worth of French property using funds diverted from the Syrian state, the AFP news agency reported on Thursday. – Reuters 

A Panama-flagged ship briefly blocked the Suez Canal on Thursday before being successfully refloated, roughly six months after another ship blocked the crucial waterway for nearly a week. – The Hill 

Nawzad Shukri writes: Lastly, the recent change of Iraq’s electoral law will further undermine any prospect for change, and will instead maintain the influence of well-established political parties. With established political parties already prepared to continue their control, the new electoral law will further damage and weaken the position of the newer and smaller parties and coalitions.  Washington Institute  

Korean Peninsula

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, attended a national predawn military parade on Thursday, but skipped the opportunity to raise tensions with the United States through a fiery speech or the display of long-range ballistic missiles. – New York Times 

Smugglers suspected of evading sanctions on North Korea have turned to schemes to create fraudulent identities for sanctioned ships, a U.S.-based research group said in a report released on Thursday. – Reuters 

Two members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week urged the Biden administration to proceed with caution in potentially easing sanctions against North Korea as a way to re-open denuclearization negotiations, particularly as South Korea gears up for presidential elections. – USNI News 


National-security police arrested four members of the group that for decades organized an annual vigil commemorating the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, the only such mass remembrance on Chinese soil before authorities banned it in 2020 citing pandemic restrictions on gatherings. – Wall Street Journal 

President Biden spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the second time as president, the White House said Thursday, amid rising tensions over human rights, military ambitions, trade and the coronavirus. – Washington Post 

English is almost synonymous with China’s reform and opening-up policies, which transformed an impoverished and hermetic nation into the world’s second-biggest economy. That’s why it came as a shock to many when the education authorities in Shanghai, the most cosmopolitan city in the country, last month forbade local elementary schools to hold final exams on the English language. – New York Times 

China has lobbied the Australian parliament to help it join a major regional trading pact, describing the strength of Chinese trade with Australia and avoiding mention of billions of dollars in punitive sanctions imposed by Beijing. – Reuters  

A group of 13 Republican lawmakers on Thursday raised concerns about U.S. approval for Chinese telecommunications company Huawei to buy chips for its growing auto components business. – Reuters 

Two dozen democratically-elected politicians swore loyalty to Hong Kong on Friday under a new patriotic law, but some opposition councillors may face disqualification if their oaths are judged insincere. – Reuters  

American firms in China are hoping for a meeting between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping this year, according to a new survey, as they look for relief from trade barriers raised during the Trump era. – Bloomberg  

Joseph C. Sternberg writes: Beijing’s economic approach under Mr. Xi can best be described as “capital without the capitalism”—an attempt to redirect resources to politically favored or economically necessary uses without resort to the mechanisms by which Western economies manage such a complex task. Until this changes, which seems unlikely under a Party regime, expect the promise of China’s financial markets for foreigners and domestic savers alike to remain unfulfilled. – Wall Street Journal  


The head of U.S. Central Intelligence Agency met with the heads of Pakistan’s army and military intelligence in Islamabad for talks on the security situation in Afghanistan, where Pakistani intelligence has long backed the Taliban. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

Taiwan’s president oversaw the commissioning of a new domestically made warship Thursday as part of the island’s plan to boost indigenous defense capacity amid heightened tensions with China. – Defense News 

Jeffrey W. Hornung and Scott W. Harold writes: Our objective is to emphasize that any Japanese acquisition of ground-based strike capabilities would have significant consequences for the U.S.-Japanese alliance and to highlight some of them. As the robust debates in Japan demonstrate, there may be deterrent advantages for the country should it field these capabilities. Yet if Japan does so, American and Japanese policymakers may need to have a new and expanded set of conversations about how such missiles will be used and how the alliance could adjust to incorporate them into this relationship. – War on the Rocks  

Arthur Herman writes: In any case, maintaining the U.S.–Japan relationship as an anchor of regional peace and stability — and securing the Indo-Pacific from Chinese domination — will increasingly depend on leadership from Tokyo, not Washington. Whoever becomes the next prime minister has an historic mission to fulfill — one that’s vital to both of our countries. – National Review


Russian tech company Yandex said a cyberattack on its servers this summer was the largest known distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack in the history of the Internet. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

A Russian court has ordered a Belarusian man extradited to Minsk, where he faces charges of participating in protests against Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

The buildup to Russia’s legislative elections has been filled with intrigue and accompanied by some downright absurd headlines. […]Now, another bombshell recording has shed light on the widespread practice of political parties fielding their own election monitors — and in this case, encouraging them to ignore violations. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  


Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, signaled plans to deepen ties between Russia and Belarus, a major step forward in the Kremlin’s long-held goal of exerting greater influence over its smaller neighbor. – Wall Street Journal 

Britain is threatening to harden its position on immigration and turn back small migrant boats crossing the English Channel, according to U.K. media reports, but France says such a policy would be dangerous and illegal. – Washington Post 

The Spanish police said on Thursday it had arrested the former head of Venezuela’s military intelligence unit, Hugo Carvajal, who had been in hiding since a Spanish court approved his extradition to the United States almost two years ago. – Reuters  

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday that all-out war with neighbouring Russia was a possibility, and that he wanted to have a substantive meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. – Reuters

Police and intelligence services have disrupted 31 plots to attack Britain in the last four years, Ken McCallum, director general of the MI5 domestic intelligence agency, said on Friday. – Reuters  

The former U.S. special envoy to Ukrainian peace talks warned of lasting damage from recent events in Afghanistan and pointed to challenges from Russian actions and setbacks in Ukraine. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


Guinea’s military junta, which seized power over the weekend, said on Thursday that it has ordered the central bank and other banks to freeze all government accounts. – Reuters 

Ethiopia said on Thursday that rebellious forces from the Tigray region had been defeated in the adjacent Afar region and had withdrawn, but the Tigrayan forces said they had merely shifted troops to neighbouring Amhara for an offensive there. – Reuters   

Somalia’s two most powerful leaders were locked in a standoff on Wednesday after they named different men to head the intelligence service of the politically unstable nation in the Horn of Africa. – Reuters  

The Americas

President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is temporarily banning social media companies from removing certain content, including his claims that the only way he’ll lose next year’s elections is if the vote is rigged — one of the most significant steps by a democratically elected leader to control what can be said on the internet. – New York Times 

The United States and Mexico on Thursday agreed to work on making shared supply chains, especially for semiconductors, more competitive and invest in social programs to tackle migration, said top Mexican officials after high-level economic talks in Washington. – Reuters  

Ryan C. Berg and Thiago de Aragao write: Until the United States develops a holistic strategy for the hemisphere that seeks to make Latin America a preferred partner, taps available resources to offer a more attractive alternative, and delineates when strategic interests are at stake—as opposed to highlighting more general economic and geopolitical competition with China—policymakers will lack an answer as to where exactly Latin America falls in China’s foreign policy priorities vis-à-vis other regions. – Center for Strategic & International Studies 

Emil Avdaliani writes: Both Georgia and Ukraine rely on the U.S. since it is the only viable defense against Russia. And America’s shift of attention from eastern Europe to the Indo-Pacific region is not complete. The U.S. might be less hawkish when it comes to further NATO expansion to the Black Sea region and some level of rapprochement with Russia could be sought. But extrapolating America’s failures in Afghanistan onto other regions is self-defeating, and most importantly, analytically incorrect. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


Hackers infiltrated the computer networks of the United Nations earlier this year, accessing data that could be used to target some of its agencies. – Washington Post 

Space Force hopes to soon wrap up a new cybersecurity certification process for commercial communications megaconstellations in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) — while allowing industry as much leeway as possible to come up with innovative solutions, a Space Force official said today. – Breaking Defense 

For several years, the U.S. Army has been on a journey to modernize to adapt to the fast-changing nature of the so-called information environment, a vast sphere that includes information, psychological and influence operations across cyberspace, the electromagnetic spectrum and space. And that’s just the start of the list the Army considers part of the information environment it wants to control. – Defense News


Air Force leaders are promising a return to a Cold War posture opposite China and Russia, hoping for a reprieve from the counterterrorism operations of the past two decades as America winds down its presence in Afghanistan. – Defense News 

As each military service constructs its own contribution to Joint All-Domain Command and Control, the Pentagon’s joint IT provider is finding it has an increasing role to play in the department’s massive modernization effort, but is grappling with the future of its legacy command-and-control tools. – Defense News 

Next year’s Project Convergence, an experimentation exercise first established by the U.S. Army in 2020, will be focused on how the joint force would fight with multinational partners by connecting to a common mission environment, according to Army leaders developing the event set for the second half of 2022. – Defense News 

Guided-missile destroyer Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002) will head to a Mississippi shipyard to finalize the ship’s combat system activation, USNI News has learned. – USNI News 

Nuclear modernization opponents and defenders are gearing up to fight again over the next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile and other efforts. – Defense News 

Long War

Traffic in the nation’s capital was gridlocked on Sept. 11, 2001, as then-Lt. Col. Marilyn Wills made her way to the Pentagon, where she worked as a congressional liaison in the Army’s personnel department, known as G-1. – Washington Times

Theodore B. Olson writes: We will never forget. That was the solemn promise we heard again and again from our nation’s leaders after the devastation of 9/11. Don’t believe it. We will forget. In some ways, we have already forgotten. And we will continue to pay a tragic price for our fading memory and tremulous resolve in the face of terror. –  Washington Post 

Fareed Zakaria writes: In 2001, the United Arab Emirates was, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, one of the only three governments on the planet to recognize the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Today, the UAE has not yet recognized the Taliban, but it has established diplomatic relations with Israel and is building stronger economic and social ties with that country — without facing great fallout in the Muslim world. […]It is not surprising that the Taliban is seeking out China as its most important partner. My bet is that it will have a much harder time finding easy allies in the Muslim world. – Washington Post 

David Ignatius writes: A decade ago, thinking about the U.S. war in Afghanistan, I came across a passage from “Paradise Lost” by the British poet John Milton: “Revenge, at first though sweet, bitter ere long back on itself recoils.” The language may be archaic, but after these 20 years, we know what it means. – Washington Post  

Nick Lewin writes: Can anyone really dispute that the victims of 9/11 and their families are finally owed a trial in which the evidence against the perpetrators is aired and their guilt or innocence fairly adjudicated? Until we choose to honor the dead by bringing the attackers to justice, we — you and I and our elected representatives — inexcusably perpetuate our collective failure. Justice is not merely due. It is overdue — long overdue. Any commemoration of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 will be an empty gesture if it is not accompanied by concrete steps to end the injustice of inaction. – Washington Post 

Christopher Wray writes: As we mark the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, we mourn the people we have lost, extend our sympathy to their families and loved ones, and express gratitude for those who sacrificed — both at home and abroad — to keep us safe. We owe it to them to recommit to the lessons learned through blood, sweat and tears in the aftermath of 9/11. – Washington Post 

Calvin Woodward, Ellen Knickmeyer and David Rising write: But as profound an event as 9/11 was, its immediate effect on how the world has been ordered was temporary and largely undone by domestic political forces, a global economic downturn and now a lethal pandemic. […] Osama bin Laden has been dead for a decade. Saddam was hanged in 2006. The forever wars — the Afghanistan one being the longest in U.S. history — now are over or ending. The days of Russia tactically enabling the U.S., and China not standing in the way, petered out. Only the phoenix lasts.  – Associated Press 

Aaron Y. Zelin writes: Yet the heavy Tunisian involvement and other circumstances of the 2001 assassination merit a closer look, not only for their impact on subsequent developments in the global jihadist movement, but also because of the implications they hold now that Afghanistan is once again under Taliban control. […]Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups will assuredly try to exploit Afghanistan just as they did twenty years ago. Whether they can succeed again remains to be seen, but their chances will only increase if individual jihadist “entrepreneurs” are able to operate effectively and build transnational networks under the radar. – Washington Institute

Liat Collins writes: Twenty years after 9/11, in the age of social media, it is a stain on the world that it tries to look the other way when Islamists from various jihadi movements commit appalling massacres in Africa and parts of Asia. Ignoring terrorism does not make it go away. Surely the world should have learned that by now. Calling out Islamist extremism is not Islamophobic. Refusing to recognize jihadist terrorism puts everyone, of every religion, at risk: Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist and more. – Jerusalem Post 

Anshel Pfesffer writes: The Taliban and its ilk may have made their comeback, for now, but they remain on the losing side of history. 9/11 failed to change that, and neither will the scenes of the last few weeks in Kabul. Democracies, just like dictatorships and autocracies, make mistakes. Unlike them, they are prepared to acknowledge them and, sometimes, even learn from them. Which is why western democracy remains so dangerous to those who insist on there being only one truth that will never change. – Haaretz 

James Jay Carafano writes: Al Qaeda will see returning to Afghanistan as redemption, and planning the next 9/11 from there as a fulfillment of their historic mission. Armed with a stronger, more well-armed military, more money, and more international support, the Taliban will be less risk-averse in permitting transnational terrorism, not more. President Biden has made the world less safe, and that is not the act that Americans deserved on the 20th anniversary of their struggle to ensure no more 9/11s. – 19fortyfive 

John P. Walters writes: Moreover, America and its allies now face multiple, dangerous adversaries regularly conducting attacks, which have not been deterred, weakened, contained, or overcome. America’s strategic situation is much more dangerous than it was twenty years ago. Once again, it is time to rethink the rules of war. This is Hudson’s most important and urgent priority. – Hudson Institute