Foreign Policy

Ghani beneath strain as Taliban advance

Here is today’s foreign policy: Taliban Troops conquer a sixth provincial capital, Western powers impose new sanctions against Belarus, and the Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi signals openness to the Vienna nuclear talks.

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Here is today’s foreign policy: Taliban Troops conquer a sixth provincial capital, Western powers impose new sanctions against Belarus, and the Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi signals openness to the Vienna nuclear talks.

If you would like to receive Morning Letter in your inbox every weekday, please log in here.

Taliban capture the sixth provincial capital

The Taliban’s advance into Afghanistan continued on Monday with the capture of Aibak, the capital of Samangan province. The sixth provincial capital fell to the group in less than a week.

Monday’s seizure was hastened by the apostasy of Asif Azimi – a prominent warlord with ties to the now-defunct Northern Alliance – a worrying sign of a change of loyalty due to a rapidly changing local situation.

In light of the urban onslaught, the Biden government is sticking to its plans to withdraw all combat troops by the end of the month. In his speech on Monday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby left responsibility to the Afghan government, referring to the capabilities of the Afghan Air Force. “They have many advantages that the Taliban don’t have … Now they have to take advantage of those advantages,” Kirby said. “You have to exercise that leadership. And it has to come from both the political and the military side. “

A lack of direction from the Afghan government is fueling panic among the Afghan people. Lynne O’Donnell wrote for Foreign Policy from Kabul on Monday, reporting on the country’s internal brain drain, which is putting pressure on the capital as nearly 3 million more people are expected to seek refuge there in the coming months.

Ghana in trouble. As the fighting drags on, pressure mounts on President Ashraf Ghani to get a grip on the situation or to get out of the way. Reports in Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal paint the picture of an isolated leader whose greatest hope is to garner support from anti-Taliban groups ahead of a full-scale civil war. President’s spokesman Mohammad Amiri said Monday that Ghani would “mobilize and arm” the local population to lead the fight against the Taliban.

A chance for peace? Despite the local carnage, the United States has not given up diplomatic channels. The State Department announced on Monday that US envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, traveled to Doha on Sunday to “formulate a common international response” and “urge the Taliban to end their military offensive and negotiate a political solution” .

Among Afghanistan’s neighbors, the Biden government is betting that Pakistan – a long-term refuge for the Taliban – will be crucial in all international peace efforts. But, as Michael Hirsh of Foreign Policy noted on Aug. 6, there are many reasons to be suspicious of Islamabad’s real intentions in the face of the ongoing Taliban surge.

What we are following today

Raisi’s first call. The new Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, decided to speak to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron when he made his first phone call to a Western leader on Monday asking him to help with the nuclear negotiations to secure the “rights” of Iran – a sign that Tehran has not been cordoned off the possibility of another round of talks in Vienna.

Raisi also criticized the Trump administration for pulling out of the deal and imposing new sanctions. Alluding to the West’s recent allegations of Iranian sea attacks, Raisi said Iran is “very serious about providing security and maintaining deterrence” in its surrounding waters, Iranian state media reported. According to a statement by the French government, Macron called on Raisi to resume stalled negotiations and to cease nuclear activities outside of the 2015 agreement.

9/11 revelations. The US Department of Justice is reviewing classified documents related to the September 11, 2001 attacks in order to reveal them to the public. The revelation came in a long-standing trial against Saudi Arabia brought by the families of those killed by the largely Saudi team of kidnappers in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

US President Joe Biden welcomed the news, saying that his administration was “obliged to ensure the greatest possible degree of legal transparency”. Biden was instructed by the families of the 9/11 victims not to bother going to 20th century memorials for the next month.

Sanctions against Belarus. The US, Canada and the UK imposed another round of sanctions on Belarus’ economy and financial sector on Monday, a year after a fraudulent election that kept President Alexander Lukashenko in office. Those affected by the sanctions include those involved in a crackdown on protesters last year, as well as those involved in the emergency landing of a Ryanair flight to arrest a Belarusian dissident in May. Lukashenko reacted calmly to the sanctions at a press conference on Monday. “While we take it patiently, we sit down at the negotiating table and start talking about how we can get out of this situation, because we will get bogged down in it without going back,” said Lukashenko.

Tensions in North Korea. Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un, described the upcoming military exercises between the US and South Korea in a statement on Tuesday as an “unwelcome, self-destructive act” and accused her southern neighbor of “insidious treatment” of measures to dismantle the Tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The United States and South Korea began laying the groundwork for computer-simulated exercises on Aug. 16-26, though the South Korean Department of Defense said Tuesday the scope of the exercises was still under discussion.

Canada’s “Two Michaels”. China is expected to rule on Wednesday in the case of the Canadian Michael Spavor, one of the so-called “Two Michaels”, who was arrested by Chinese authorities in retaliation for the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou by the Canadian police on a US Extradition requests. Spavor and another Canadian, Michael Kovrig, were charged with espionage in March. Barring diplomatic interventions, the prospects for the release of Spavor and Kovrig look bleak as Chinese courts have a conviction rate of nearly 100 percent.

bits and pieces

Families in Japan separated by the COVID-19 pandemic and unable to hold newborns are instead hugging bags of rice, the Guardian reports. The rice bags in the form of a swaddled baby are equipped with a life-size image of the baby’s face and are tailored to the baby’s weight.

Naruo Ono, the owner of a rice shop in Kitakyushu, got the idea after giving birth to his own son in the hope that his relatives would “feel the cuteness” through the custom-made rice bags. Ono has now dealt with wedding favors, with newly married couples giving their parents rice babies from their infant selves as a token of gratitude.

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