Fdd's overnight brief

September 2, 2021

In The News


On the second full day with no U.S. troops on Afghan soil, the Taliban moved Wednesday to form a new Islamic government, preparing to appoint the movement’s leading religious figure, Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada, as the nation’s supreme authority, Taliban officials said. – New York Times 

Countries where people leaving Afghanistan are likely to wind up are bracing for a full-scale migration crisis in the wake of the Taliban’s rapid return to power and the hurried withdrawal of the United States and its allies. Warnings from aid groups have given credence to those fears. – Washington Post 

As the Taliban leadership closed in on forming a government Wednesday, its fighters were attacking the last bastion of Afghanistan not under their control, seeking to consolidate their military and political grip on the country. – Washington Post 

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Wednesday defended Sunday’s U.S. drone strike in Kabul that appears to have caused civilian casualties. – Washington Post 

Clashes flared in northern and central Afghanistan between the Taliban and local militias on Wednesday, as the Islamist movement continued to consolidate its grip on power in the Afghan capital two days after the U.S. ended its 20-year presence in the country. – Wall Street Journal 

The U.S. estimates it left behind the majority of Afghan interpreters and others who applied for visas to flee Afghanistan, a senior State Department official said on Wednesday, despite frantic efforts to evacuate those at risk of Taliban retribution. – Wall Street Journal 

In the absence of a government or formally announced rules under the new regime in Kabul, Taliban fighters in the provinces appear to be acting largely based on their own personal interpretation of what constitutes appropriate behavior. – Wall Street Journal 

U.S. troops destroyed or disabled nearly 100 combat vehicles and dozens of aircraft before vacating the airport in Kabul on Monday, in a last-ditch bid to deprive the Taliban of the use of some American military equipment. – Wall Street Journal 

European leaders, grappling with the question of how to interact with Afghanistan’s new hard-line Taliban leadership, are considering threatening sanctions to win commitments to safeguard human rights, cut terrorist ties and permit at-risk Afghans to leave. – Wall Street Journal 

Pope Francis criticized Western involvement in Afghanistan in an interview released on Wednesday, saying it showed the flaws of exporting Western values and nation-building. – New York Times 

As Afghans pay surging prices for eggs and flour and stand in long lines at the bank, money changers like Enayatullah and his underground financial lifeline have found themselves in desperate demand. – New York Times 

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters Wednesday that it is “possible” American forces will coordinate with the Taliban on operations against the terrorist group ISIS-K. – New York Post 

A Qatari aircraft landed in Kabul Wednesday carrying a technical team to discuss the resumption of airport operations after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, according to a source with knowledge of the matter. – Agence France-Presse 

The U.S. says it will remain intimately engaged in diplomacy in Afghanistan on topics from counterterrorism and humanitarian aid to women’s rights — all without having a single diplomat posted there. – NBC 

A senior State Department official said Wednesday that it appeared a “majority” of Afghans who had worked for the U.S. military and applied for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) had not been successfully evacuated and remained in Afghanistan. – NBC 

The United States and its allies may have left Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban but they still have “leverage” to make the Islamist militants honor commitments to allow people out of the country, according to U.S. President Joe Biden. – Reuters 

The new, Taliban-appointed head of Afghanistan’s central bank has sought to reassure banks the group wants a fully-functioning financial system, but has so far provided little detail on how it will supply funds to sustain it, said four bankers familiar with the matter. – Reuters 

Britain’s intelligence assessment was that it was unlikely Kabul would fall this year, foreign minister Dominic Raab said as he defended Britain’s withdrawal from Afghanistan after the Taliban swept across the country much more quickly than expected. – Reuters 

The United States will help build new facilities for border guards in Tajikistan along the Central Asian country’s frontier with Afghanistan and Uzbekistan to better respond to security threats, the U.S embassy in Dushanbe said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Aviation insurers are unwilling to insure commercial flights into Afghanistan because of the risk of attacks after U.S. troops left the country, making it hard to deliver aid or evacuate people, industry sources told Reuters. – Reuters 

A week into the evacuation from Kabul, the U.S. military was forced to take a drastic step: stop all flights from Hamid Karzai International Airport for seven hours because there was nowhere for the evacuees to go. – Reuters 

The Taliban has surrounded the only remaining province resisting its rule, a senior leader said on Wednesday, calling on rebels to negotiate a settlement with the group. – Reuters 

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was heading to the region around Afghanistan on Wednesday in a push to rescue stranded British citizens and Afghan allies, amid strong criticism of the government’s rushed and chaotic evacuation effort. – Associated Press 

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan was the right move but was carried out poorly, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Wednesday, in the first sound of criticism from a senior Israeli official about the recent withdrawal. – Jerusalem Post 

The White House refused to draw further attention to reports President Joe Biden and ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani were unprepared for Afghanistan’s quick collapse and that Biden had encouraged his counterpart in Kabul, Afghanistan, to fix his “perception” problem by selling a military strategy with local political heavyweights. – Washington Examiner 

Following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s rise to power there, religious scholar Dr. Attia ‘Adlan, a  former Egyptian MP and current member of the International Union Of Muslims Scholars (IUMS), which is supported by Qatar and Turkey, published an article on the IUMS website in which he defended the Taliban against its detractors. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Despite US President Joe Biden calling the American evacuation from Kabul an “extraordinary success,” officials in his administration were appalled that US forces left with several hundred Americans still in Afghanistan, now under Taliban rule. – Times of Israel 

Editorial: Perhaps the United States, and the world, are dealing with a new and pragmatic Taliban, in which case Mr. Biden’s job will be easier. Or perhaps the Taliban will revert to its repressive and violent past, split into warring factions — or both. What’s certain is that, no matter how fervently Mr. Biden wishes America to be done with Afghanistan, Afghanistan is not done with America. – Washington Post 

Editorial: In fact, Biden knew the Taliban were overtaking the Afghan government — and asked Ghani to lie about it. The perception “is that things are not going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban,” Biden said. “And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.” Ghani gave him the facts: “We are facing a full-scale invasion, composed of Taliban, full Pakistani planning and logistical support, and at least 10-15,000 international terrorists, predominantly Pakistanis thrown into this.” Biden ignored them. – New York Post 

Michael Allen writes: Congress shouldn’t let the Biden administration pin its failures on the intelligence community. As the congressional intelligence committees begin their review this fall of the intelligence supplied by the intelligence community to policy makers, they should consider whether the Biden administration’s timing, method and execution of the withdrawal contributed to the downfall of the Kabul government. – Wall Street Journal 

Karl Rove writes: Mr. Biden’s shaky and listless performance has demolished the idea that he’ll be a credible contender in 2024. Also wrecked is any sense that Vice President Kamala Harris is an acceptable heir. The president’s failures and shortcomings are hers as well, while she’s failed to produce success in virtually every responsibility she has been given to handle. – Wall Street Journal 

Aaron Blake writes: While those Americans were understandably the priority for evacuations, though, that calculus cuts both ways. If the Taliban seeks to track down on U.S. allies who remain in the country, the impetus for a response won’t be the same, for understandable reasons. But that would also come with a significant potential cost for U.S. diplomacy and foreign policy — for the second time in just two years. – Washington Post 

David Gardner writes: The US withdrew from Afghanistan, even sharing intelligence with the Taliban, in line with its own perceived interests. In a region that has just been taught one more lesson in US unreliability, it would surely be worth Washington’s while to explore the power of the self-interest of others. – Financial Times 

Ruth Pollard writes: Yet the Biden White House is talking up renewed economic pressure on the Taliban to compel it to allow Americans and others to leave the country now that the full withdrawal of foreign forces is complete. At this point, any further tightening may just result in a wholesale collapse.  – Bloomberg 

Mihir Sharma writes: Biden and Merkel are very different people. But Biden will probably survive his Afghanistan disaster for the same reason that Merkel held power so long: At least it’s his disaster. Obama’s vice-president has discovered his own secret for success: “Do stuff, even if it’s stupid.” – Bloomberg 

Susan Yoshihara writes: Financial institutions and national capitals must solve the dilemma between stemming the unfolding humanitarian tragedy in Afghanistan and protecting human rights. To do that, they must cede seats at the table to a broad group of civil society, whose wisdom and selfless dedication we all need a lot more of in the future.  – The Hill 

Becket Adams writes: Yes, $24 billion is probably a more accurate number (it’s still just a guesstimate), but this doesn’t really change the nature of the complaint. The U.S., which finalized its chaotic, fatal, and frenzied withdrawal from Afghanistan this week, just handed the Taliban an amount of lethal equipment that can only be measured as a percentage of the Pentagon’s annual budget. – Washington Examiner 

David Marcus writes: Today, Biden’s only hope is that his diplomatic leverage with the Taliban will force them to allow our citizens and allies to escape and usher in a kinder and gentler Islamic caliphate that hews to Western norms. The only problem with this is that the Taliban wants death to America more than it wants International Monetary Fund loans and invitations to UN cocktail parties. That the president and his band of Ivy League idiots don’t understand this is frankly amazing. – New York Post 

Grace Melton writes: The Taliban undoubtedly will commit severe human rights abuses against the Afghan people, particularly women. To potentially stop those abuses, Biden must commit his administration to championing fundamental human rights for all individuals on the basis of human dignity. It’s time to get priorities straight. – Heritage Foundation 

James Jay Carafano writes: Biden very likely ended this endless war by triggering a new global war on terror, not to mention hamstringing the U.S in the competition with China over South Asia. The fact is the U.S. influence in Afghanistan is weaker today than when Bill Clinton blindly lobbed cruise missiles at bin Laden.  No military adviser worth his stars would have suggested any of these moves, which compromised sound military action. If nothing else, what was proved conclusively last week is that Biden is an appalling commander in chief. – Heritage Foundation 


France and Germany on Wednesday urged Iran to return rapidly to nuclear negotiations, after a break in talks following Iranian elections in June, with Paris demanding an “immediate” restart amid Western concerns over Tehran’s expanding atomic work. – Reuters 

Stalled talks aimed at reviving Iran’s nuclear agreement with world powers will likely not resume for another two to three months, the Iranian Foreign Minister said on Wednesday, according to AFP. – Arutz Sheva 

The tweets from Tanker Trackers, which appear to cast doubt on the reports in pro-Iran media, illustrate the murky world of oil and gas shipping, with ships that switch off their AIS transponders to hide. The question is why pro-Iran media would depict the arrival of a tanker with oil, which is a more regular shipment to Syria, as if it was gas destined for Lebanon. Is their goal to embarrass the recent US delegation, or to put some wind in the sales of Hezbollah. Dashed hopes for the fuel distribution, however, may backfire. – Jerusalem Post 

Iran is determined to increase its oil exports despite sanctions imposed by the United States on Tehran’s crude sales, Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji said on Wednesday, adding that the use of oil sanctions as a “political tool” would harm the market. – Reuters  

Ofir Barel writes; So far, Israel has wasted precious time ignoring an existential threat, which has become increasingly elusive and dangerous. The two solutions described above could serve as a base for an overall policy, which may allow Israel to not only be better prepared for future influence operations but also turn public diplomacy into a vital component in curbing Iran’s harmful ambitions. – Washington Institute 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran intends to make great strides toward China under the new leadership in Tehran over the next five years, Iranian media say. It foresees a new era in Afghanistan and increased trade with China. Despite sanctions, it also wants to push energy exports to Afghanistan and Lebanon. It sees new horizons in Iraq, after a major meeting in Baghdad in August that brought together Turkey, Iran and several important countries. – Jerusalem Post 


Russian military police on Wednesday began patrolling the last rebel bastion in Syria’s southwest under a deal that halted an Iranian-backed government offensive to retake the birthplace of the 2011 popular uprising, military and civilian sources said. – Reuters 

A Russian-negotiated cease-fire took effect Wednesday in a volatile southern city, according to the Syrian opposition and state media. – Associated Press 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Thousands have been displaced by the fighting in southern Syria and the next step is unclear. Iran and Hezbollah may soon try to infiltrate the area which could increase tensions in the region, particularly between Israel and Hezbollah. For years Israel has been concerned over the possibility of a multi-front war, including a conflict in the north along the Lebanese and Golan border with Syria. Iran will have to tread carefully. – Jerusalem Post 


Israel said on Wednesday that a U.S. plan to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem that has traditionally been a base for diplomatic outreach to Palestinians is a “bad idea” and could destabilise Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s new government. – Reuters 

Israel has opened a new shipping port along its Mediterranean coast that will bring much needed competition to a sector plagued by delays and boost the country’s standing as a regional trade hub. – Reuters 

Following a security assessment and approval by the political echelon, the Coordinator of Government Activities (COGAT) announced that it has been decided to expand the fishing area in the Gaza Strip to up to 15 nautical miles. – Arutz Sheva 

Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet leader Mohammad Shtayyeh said that the PA welcomes any international initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict. – Arutz Sheva 

Israeli officials have repeatedly cautioned their counterparts in the Biden administration against being overly critical of the Saudi and Egyptian governments, due to concerns that that such criticism might lead Riyadh and Cairo to turn to countries like Iran, China and Russia for support, a source familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel on Wednesday. – Times of Israel 

US President Joe Biden reportedly signed a letter reaffirming the US commitment to decades-old strategic understandings with Israel over its alleged nuclear arsenal, according to a Wednesday report. – Times of Israel 

Members of the European Parliament pressed the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Wednesday over reports of incitement to violence and prejudice found in Palestinian textbooks used in it schools. – Algemeiner 

A delegation of four Democratic senators arrived in Israel on Wednesday evening local time, and will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog, Jewish Insider has learned. – Jewish Insider 

Zev Chafets writes: Given the Jihadi enthusiasm inspired by the fall of Kabul, Israel will inevitably be forced to demonstrate its own military prowess in a convincing way. Hopefully President Biden will understand and support what action it chooses. After all, unlike the U.S., Israel can’t afford to appear weak. It doesn’t have the luxury of packing up and flying away. – Bloomberg 


Lebanon is in free fall and must not become a “horror story”, a U.S. senator said during a visit to Beirut on Wednesday, voicing hope that a government would be formed this week to start addressing its destabilising financial meltdown. – Reuters 

The Lebanese government has received no request for fuel to be imported from Iran, the caretaker energy minister said on Wednesday, appearing to confirm that the Shi’ite group Hezbollah has bypassed the state with a move to import Iranian fuel. – Reuters 

A delegation of four U.S. senators said Wednesday that America is looking to help Lebanon overcome fuel shortages that have paralyzed the country. But they warned the import of Iranian oil into the crisis-hit country could have “severely damaging consequences.” – Associated Press 


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday arrived in Cairo, where he is scheduled to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah to discuss ways to internationalize talks toward a two-state resolution. – Jerusalem Post 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will travel to the Sinai Peninsula to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in the near future, a report Wednesday claimed. – Times of Israel 

Senior Palestinian Arab and Egyptian officials said on Wednesday that Egypt is exerting heavy pressure to complete the exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, which would see release of security prisoners in exchange for the return of Israeli missing persons and IDF casualties as part of a comprehensive agreement on a long-term ceasefire. – Arutz Sheva 


Two human rights groups Wednesday accused both sides in Yemen’s conflict of using starvation as a tactic of war. They urged the U.N. Security Council to refer the opposing participants to the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged crimes. – Associated Press 

Fighting has flared up between Yemen’s pro-government forces and Houthi rebels in the oil-rich government stronghold of Marib province, with at least 28 fighters killed over the last 24 hours, security officials from both sides and tribal leaders said on Thursday. – Associated Press 

The Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen’s Houthi group said it had intercepted three explosive-laden drones over Yemen on Wednesday, a day after shrapnel from a drone destroyed over Saudi Arabia wounded eight and damaged a civilian plane. – Reuters 

Gulf States

Defense Chief Lloyd Austin plans to travel to the Arabian Gulf next week, following the U.S.’s complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. – NBC 

The criminal case against Tom Barrack, the businessman accused of acting as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates, involves national security information, according to a court filing on Wednesday. – Bloomberg 

Bilal Y. Saab writes: But first, we have to give our Gulf Arab partners a reason why they should continue to help us in Afghanistan. Yes, the entire world benefits from a less chaotic Afghanistan that doesn’t serve as a magnet for global terrorism, but stability in those faraway lands is not an immediate priority for the Gulf Arab states. […]If we commit to a joint approach to the Iran threat, they will escalate their assistance not just in Afghanistan but in other parts of the world we care about too. – Middle East Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

A member of the notorious ISIS execution squad dubbed “The Beatles” is scheduled to plead guilty Thursday to charges related to the “brutal hostage-taking scheme” in Syria, court records show. – New York Post 

Yossi Cohen writes: We must demand a stable Middle East that neutralizes the Iranian presence throughout the region to the best of its ability and which does not allow Iran to become a nuclear country. Thanks to the good relations between Jerusalem and Washington as well as between Bennett and Biden, these messages may be welcomed into the hearts of U.S. policymakers. – Ynet 

Shimon Samuels and Alex Uberti write: In fact, apparently frustrated and contemptuous toward the Arab-Israeli normalization process, Sunni Algeria seems willing to play a role as “alternative broker” for Syria, the Houthis and the Palestinians, and is apparently getting closer to Shi’ite Iran. None of the Abraham Accords stakeholders view such development positively. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid recently visited Morocco, to arrange the opening of embassies and fostering diplomacy. One year after its seminal start, may the Abraham Accords prevail and bear fruit! – Jerusalem Post 

Korean Peninsula

South Korea’s passage of a bill to restrict how Apple and Google can operate their app stores was welcomed in the European Union, home to some of the world’s most ambitious attempts to regulate Big Tech companies. – Washington Post 

North Korea has turned down roughly three million doses of Covid-19 vaccines developed by Chinese drugmaker Sinovac Biotech Ltd., instructing that they should instead be sent to harder-hit countries. The shots were offered in recent weeks through the Covax initiative, a program financed mostly by Western governments to help lower-income countries obtain vaccines. – Wall Street Journal 

North Korean troops have been spotted in commercial satellite imagery preparing for a likely military parade, according to two organisations that track the country. – Reuters 

South Korea is in the final stages of developing a ballistic missile that can carry a warhead of up to 3 tons, Yonhap news agency reported on Thursday, as the country unveiled budget proposals aimed at bolstering its defences against North Korea. – Reuters 

The Biden administration has extended for one year a Trump-era ban on the use of U.S. passports for travel to North Korea. – Associated Press 


China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday warned U.S. climate envoy John F. Kerry that worsening U.S.-China ties could derail cooperation on climate change, one of few areas of potential collaboration between the two rivals. – Washington Post 

Two Canadians imprisoned in China on espionage charges are linked by photos of unspecified military equipment one took and shared with the other, according to a government-run newspaper in China that appeared to make public new information about prosecutions that have rattled relations with Ottawa. – Wall Street Journal 

Editorial: Across the board, China’s government is not prioritising growth as it once did but instead trying to rein in unbridled capitalism, whether the power of big technology companies or rising economic inequality. That may be understandable — a slowdown in aluminium production has been blamed on a determination by the government to cut pollution — but it will mean the country is not the engine of global growth it was after the 2008 financial crisis. This time the rest of the world will have to find other engines to power the recovery. – Financial Times 


The Taliban’s swift takeover has brought to power an Afghan government more closely aligned with Pakistan, stirring security concerns in neighboring India and potentially raising tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals. – Wall Street Journal 

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, an icon of Kashmir’s separatist movement who vexed the New Delhi government for decades with his uncompromising politics, died Tuesday night, prompting Indian authorities to deploy troops around the restive region and cut Internet access. – Washington Post 

China’s special envoy for Asian Affairs Sun Guoxiang visited Myanmar last week for talks with its military rulers, as a new route spanning the Southeast Asian nation opened up connecting Chinese trade flows to the Indian Ocean. – Reuters 

Earlier this month, at the end of India’s annual Independence Day parade in New Delhi, the Indian Air Force showed off its aircraft inventory in multiple flyovers of the Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in the capital. – Business Insider 

Patrick M. Cronin Writes: As the Afghan effect plays out in the years to come, much good can be derived from an inescapably jarring moment in history. South Korea’s greater self-reliance can be good for South Koreans and the alliance with the United States. Pyongyang may ultimately see North Korea’s growing dependence on China as too steep a price to pay for resisting arms talks. And the United States may eventually wind up with more credibility and capability to manage complex challenges globally, with a heightened focus on Northeast Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region. – Hudson Institute 


Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan had achieved nothing but tragedy and loss of life on all sides and showed it was impossible to foist foreign values on other nations. – Reuters 

James Freeman writes: Despite very favorable policies from the White House, Russian President Vladimir Putin still doesn’t feel like doing U.S. President Joe Biden a solid. Readers will recall the bizarre episode last month when Mr. Biden, who is pushing expensive taxpayer-funded policies to reduce oil production, suddenly urged Russia and its allies in the international energy cartel to increase oil production. – Wall Street Journal 

Roman Badanin writes: Now more than ever, we Russian journalists need the support of our colleagues around the world, international organizations and national governments. They should urge the Russian government to respect the rights of journalists to go about their work as well as the rights of Russian citizens to access honest and independent information. […]The international community must act. To do otherwise is to become complicit in the Russian government’s efforts to silence our society. – Washington Post 

Tom Rogan writes: Putin’s assessment of Nazi intentions for the eastern Soviet peoples bears some undeniable truth . But we should not ignore Putin’s disdain for the common sacrifice of Western Europeans and the United States in defeating the Nazis . Putin’s intent is to present Russia as a special and distinct entity that cannot be aligned with Western norms and values. […]The connection point between the Nazis and the contemporary West is, by Putin’s argument, measured by a sustaining external threat. – Washington Examiner 


It is not only American officials who face tough questions over the shambles in Kabul. Britain’s top diplomat defended himself in Parliament on Wednesday from withering criticism over the chaotic evacuation, maintaining that British intelligence had assumed the Afghan military and government could hold out for much longer. – Washington Post 

As the workday drew to a close at the U.S. air base in southwest Germany, “The Star-Spangled Banner” rang out from speakers set up across the vast facility. Minutes later, the speakers cranked up again, this time in the cadence of Arabic, calling Muslims to late-afternoon prayer. – New York Times 

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met on Wednesday to discuss the countries’ bilateral relations and Ukraine’s tensions with Russia and aspirations to join the West, addressing a simmering foreign policy challenge for Mr. Biden in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. – Wall Street Journal 

The chaotic Western withdrawal from Afghanistan is likely to be a catalyst for the European Union’s attempts to develop its common defence, the EU’s top diplomat said on Thursday, saying a rapid reaction force must be part of that. – Reuters 

The European Union will need to engage with the Taliban but it will not rush into formally recognising the Islamist militant group as the new rulers of Afghanistan, a senior European Union official said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

The authoritarian leader of Belarus said Wednesday that the country will soon receive a large batch of Russian weapons, including dozens of combat jets, helicopters and top-of-the-line air defense missile systems. – Associated Press 

Angela Merkel will leave office as one of modern Germany’s longest-serving leaders and a global diplomatic heavyweight, with a legacy defined by her management of a succession of crises that shook a fragile Europe rather than any grand visions for her own country. – Associated Press 

President Joe Biden assured Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday that the United States opposes “Russian aggression” but he showed no sign of moving on requests to open NATO to the eastern European country. – Agence France-Presse 

The United States is promising up to $60 million in military aid to Ukraine in advance of a White House meeting on Sept. 1 between President Joe Biden and his counterpart in Kyiv, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. – Associated Press 

The EU has “learnt the hard way” from the Afghanistan crisis about the need to build up its own defence capabilities and develop the “attributes of hard power”, Brussels’ commissioner in charge of defence industry issues has said. – Financial Times 

Top defense leaders from France, Germany and Spain have formalized plans to begin the preliminary development phase for a lead plane under the Future Combat Air System program, committing their governments to spending billions of euros in the coming years. – Defense News 

Kurt Volker writes: Finally, the two countries should talk about building a competitive marketplace in Ukraine that attracts foreign investment. […]It will take genuine systemic change, based on anti-trust legislation that enforces a competitive marketplace, to unlock Ukraine’s potential for growth. The United States did this itself in the early 20th Century – turning the names of Carnegie, Rockefeller, Morgan, and Ford from monopolists to honored philanthropists. There is no reason why Ukraine cannot do it today. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Otto Lanzavecchia and Francesco Bechis write: Indeed, as far as defense and international cooperation are concerned, Italy and the U.S. are in lockstep. […]Moreover, the allies’ global efforts are somewhat complementary. As the Americans refocus their efforts on Southeast Asia, the Italians are focusing on the wider Mediterranean area and carrying out stabilizing efforts in North African nations — most notably, Libya — as well as the Middle East. Center for European Policy Analysis 


Fighters from Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region have looted food stores holding U.S. government aid as Ethiopia’s civil war spreads into new areas and hunger rises across the country, America’s top aid official there has charged. – New York Times 

Nigerian gunmen on Wednesday kidnapped 73 students after storming a high school in the northwest of the country in the latest in a series of mass abductions targeting pupils. – Agence France-Presse 

Rebels in eastern Congo ambushed a stalled civilian convoy that was under military escort Wednesday, killing five people and abducting dozens of hostages initially. About 20 people remained missing hours later, the army said. – Associated Press 

Anchored at the deepwater port of Berbera, an Ethiopian-flagged ship offloads its cargo of sugar and rice coming from India in what officials hope is a sign of a fresh era of trade in the self-declared east African state of Somaliland. – Financial Times 

Uzodinma Iweala writes: With such pressing issues at home, it may be hard for Biden to justify travel abroad, but re-establishing America’s tarnished leadership in the world means restoring ties with international allies. African countries can play as significant a role in America’s future as they did in its past, only this time as empowered partners. – Financial Times 

United States

Critics have piled on Mr. Biden, not just for the messiness of the departure but also for his repudiation of the principles that drove the mission in Afghanistan. While the president sees the United States belatedly ending “an era of major military operations to remake other countries,” as he put it on Tuesday in a defiant defense of his decision, critics see a dangerous American retrenchment that could leave the world in deeper disarray. – New York Times 

US defense chiefs said they felt pain and anger Wednesday and would humbly study the lessons of the Afghan war after leaving the country under control of the Taliban, whom they fought for 20 years. – Agence France-Presse 

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials are reportedly concerned that far-right extremist groups inspired by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan could carry out violent attacks in the U.S. – The Hill 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Wednesday waved off GOP calls for President Biden’s impeachment over his administration’s handling of the Afghanistan military withdrawal — saying its an issue voters will have to decide on at the ballot box. – New York Post 

James Jay Carafano writes: All it takes is the courage to get out there and dialogue. That’s not to say it’s easy. But you can’t be intimidated at the thought of being called a racist if you hate anti-racism or being labeled an extremist if you want voting to be easy to do but hard to cheat at. […]All America needs is to muster the will to talk and educate ourselves about what America needs. The alternative is outsourcing our freedom, prosperity, and security to those who don’t deserve our trust. – Heritage Foundation 

Philip Stephens writes: The real lesson from Afghanistan is that the purpose of military intervention — and it must always be a last resort — is to provide a space in which politics, economics and diplomacy can do their work. Biden is right about one thing. Confronting the new challenges needs leaders with patience and endurance — more than shown by the present occupant of the White House. – Financial Times 

Paul C. Atkinson writes: The strategic threat from the Taliban was unable to spark the kind of bipartisan opposition to Carter’s proposal North Korea ignited in Washington 45 years ago. And it’s hard to argue that over the next half-century Afghanistan will evolve into another South Korea. Nonetheless, it is clear from Carter’s Korean denouement that an administration cannot always call for a withdrawal of forces, even a potentially popular one, at a time of its own choosing. – The Hill 


The Department of Justice has accelerated an investigation into Google’s digital advertising practices and may file an antitrust lawsuit against the internet giant before the end of the year, two people with knowledge of the government’s thinking said on Wednesday. – New York Times 

Israel’s foreign minister on Wednesday played down criticism of the country’s regulation of the cyberespionage firm NSO Group but vowed to step up efforts to ensure the company’s controversial spyware doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. – Associated Press 

Tim Culpan writes: To get there, though, we may see more and more data repositories, like Ant and its credit-scoring service, fall under direct or indirect government control, including the real-time processing and analysis that comes with it. Beijing’s message to companies is clear: Your data belongs to us. Right now that edict is merely figurative. Before long, it could be literal. – Bloomberg 


An influential US lawmaker wants an engine competition for the US Air Force (USAF) Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), and has proposed allowing extra money to be spent on an advanced propulsion system effort to make it happen. – Janes 

Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, thinks the U.S. military should thoroughly examine the decisions it made in the withdrawal from Afghanistan. – Military.com  

Ben Hodges, Jack Crawford, and Charles Mann write: It is a timely opportunity for the NATO alliance to adapt its exercises, planning, and policies to enhance collective defense and deterrence. To more effectively counter the intimidation and aggression synonymous with Zapad, NATO needs an updated approach to Russian exercises. – Center for European Policy Analysis