Posted by BW Actual on Aug 24th 2021



  • The Taliban warned that the U.S. would be crossing a “red line” if it kept its 5,800 troops in Afghanistan to secure the ongoing airlift past Aug. 31. It seems Biden might acquiesce: talk of extending past that deadline has gotten quieter since the Taliban started objecting to a longer stay, and the UK withdrew its support for an extension.
  • In another example of the U.S. taking cues from the Taliban, it seems it was actually the Taliban—not the U.S., as Biden had hinted in his address on Sunday—that moved to expand the security perimeter around Kabul’s airport to prevent Islamic State attacks at the airport. There’s still no word on the identify of the gunmen who engaged U.S. and Afghan guards at the airport yesterday.
  • A Taliban spokesman denied the presence of Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan and said what Pres. Biden wants to hear: that Al Qaeda won’t be allowed to pose a threat from Afghanistan. However, the Taliban has demonstrated it can’t babysit thousands of foreign fighters within its ranks: it doesn’t even admit to their presence. Why would it be able to better control Al Qaeda fighters?
  • Yesterday Taliban forces recaptured the three districts in Baghlan that local militia groups had taken over last week. Hundreds of Taliban fighters are now heading towards the Panjshir Valley, where Ahmad Massoud has established a stronghold. Massoud says he’d prefer to talk to the Taliban but is prepared to fight if the Taliban enters Panjshir.


  • A Brookings analysis pasted below has some thoughtful predictions for China’s interests in Afghanistan. Three main takeaways:
    • “Beijing will recognize the Taliban and seek ways to encourage the Taliban to be attentive to China’s security concerns.
    • “Beijing will urge the Taliban to deny safe haven to Uyghur fighters and other groups that could destabilize Central Asia or harm Chinese interests in the region or at home.
    • “Over time, China would welcome opportunities to benefit from Afghanistan’s rich mineral deposits and incorporate Afghanistan into its Belt and Road Initiative, but it likely has learned from America’s experience that even modest expectations in Afghanistan must be tempered.”
  • Separately, China cancelled carmaker BYD’s plan to sell shares in its unit that makes computer chips because of ongoing investigations into the company that may be related to China’s new data protection rules. BYD is China’s largest vehicular chipmaker, and had planned to raise at least $421 million in the share sale.


  • Neighbors of Belarus—Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Estonia—called on the EU to take action against Belarus for its sly practice of encouraging transit migration with the aim of destabilizing the destination country.
  • The Economist reports that Pres. Lukashenko has directly overseen efforts to woo Middle Eastern migrants to fly to Belarus with the allure of an “enlightened, warm, cozy Europe” and then bus them directly to the border and send them on their way.
  • Illegal crossings from Belarus into Lithuania are up more than 50-fold since last year—though this surely includes many fleeing Belarusians as well as migrants—and both Poland and Lithuania plan to build fences along their borders with Belarus.


  • Libyan officials are increasingly hinting that the presidential election scheduled for Dec. 24 is not on track, and will need to be delayed unless rules for the vote are agreed by early September. Those rules are already long overdue, and there’s no sign that Libya’s disparate leaders are any more likely to agree on them now than they were in March when they committed to this timeline.


  • The FDA granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID vaccine for people aged 16 and up, making it the first fully authorized COVID vaccine in the U.S.
  • Until now, all three major vaccines used in the U.S. had been authorized only for emergency use, and some Americans had been hesitant to get vaccinated before full approval. Now that Pfizer’s has been fully approved, more vaccine holdouts are expected to get jabbed—and we’re also likely to see more rules requiring vaccinations: for example, the Pentagon promptly announced it will soon require all active duty troops to be vaccinated.

Other News

  • Ndambi Guebuza, the son of former Mozambican Pres. Armando Guebuza, went on trial for blackmail, embezzlement, and money laundering in connection with the “tuna bonds” scandal—in which three shell companies took on $2.2 billion in government-guaranteed debt to buy a tuna factory and state-of-the-art maritime security fleet. Auditors say $500 million of that is missing.

How will China seek to profit from the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan (Brookings)

In recent days, many analysts have stepped forward to provide predictions on how America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan will impact China’s regional and global standing. Some argue the withdrawal will free up American resources to focus on China and the Indo-Pacific. For others, the withdrawal opens a vacuum for China to exploit. Still others assert that Taiwan is now more vulnerable because Beijing has taken the measure of America’s resolve and competence and found it lacking.

While it is difficult to know with certainty how China’s leaders are evaluating developments in Afghanistan, it is possible to draw a few preliminary conclusions. The following observations are based on over a decade of discussions with Chinese officials and experts focused on such questions.


Most Chinese counterparts I know are unclouded by any optimism about their capacity to transform Afghanistan. They harbor no ambition to run Afghanistan or to turn Afghanistan into a model of their own form of governance. Beijing is master only of its own interests in Afghanistan, which are predominantly animated by security concerns. Chinese leaders worry about the spread of instability from Afghanistan into adjacent regions, including spillover into China. They also worry about the inspiration that Islamic militarism could provide to others with similar aspirations.

Although Chinese leaders are not enthusiastic about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, they will not allow principle to stand in the way of pragmatism, as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s hosting of Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Tianjin three weeks ago signaled. Beijing will recognize the Taliban and seek ways to encourage the Taliban to be attentive to China’s security concerns. Beijing will urge the Taliban to deny safe haven to Uyghur fighters and other groups that could destabilize Central Asia or harm Chinese interests in the region or at home.

Over time, China would welcome opportunities to benefit from Afghanistan’s rich mineral deposits and incorporate Afghanistan into its Belt and Road Initiative, but it likely has learned from America’s experience that even modest expectations in Afghanistan must be tempered. Beijing’s lack of development at its major investment in the Mes Aynak copper mine demonstrates its willingness to exercise patience in pursuit of return on investment. Beijing likely will take the time necessary to gain confidence that its defensive security requirements are met before it attempts to advance its affirmative interests in Afghanistan.


The principal means through which China may seek to profit from America’s withdrawal might be its efforts to advance a narrative of American decline. Chinese propaganda officials likely will seek to exploit tragic images of America’s abandonment of Afghan partners as proof points of American unreliability and incompetence. These efforts likely will seek to reach two audiences: a domestic one and an international (non-American) one.

For the domestic audience, Beijing’s message will be that the United States is not an object of worship. Unlike Washington, Beijing will not intervene in other country’s civil wars, spill blood, and leave messes behind.

For an international audience, the message likely will be that America’s best days are behind it. Afghanistan is but another way station on America’s path of decline. China’s rise is the story of the future.

Beijing’s unsubtlety in its efforts to score points off tragedy likely will diminish their impact. The most potent action the United States could take to undercut Beijing’s narrative will not be to complain about them, but rather to work to restore confidence in the competence of the United States to do big things well. Prestige on the world stage will ultimately be defined by performance.


From a hard security standpoint, Taiwan is no more vulnerable today than it was one week ago. None of the constraints on Beijing’s capacity to wage war on Taiwan have been lessened due to developments in Afghanistan. China’s leaders likely understand America’s only vital interest in Afghanistan was preventing a terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland.

Taiwan is not Afghanistan. Taiwan is a thriving democratic society, a critical link in global supply chains, and a close partner and friend of the United States and other countries in the region, including Japan and Australia. It also is viewed as a bellwether of the credibility of American security commitments, even though Taiwan is not a formal American alliance partner.

The proximate focus of Chinese efforts likely will be in seeking to undermine the psychological confidence of the Taiwan people in their own future. Beijing would like to advance a narrative inside Taiwan that the United States is distant and unreliable, Taiwan is isolated and alone, and Taiwan’s only path to peace and prosperity runs through Beijing. Chinese propaganda outlets almost certainly will seek to use events in Afghanistan to push their preferred narrative inside Taiwan.

Given Beijing’s current hard-edged disposition toward Taiwan, fresh memories of events in Hong Kong, and the Democratic Progressive Party’s control of the presidency and legislature, there is a low likelihood of Beijing’s psychological pressure resulting in near-term policy shifts in Taipei. If questions of American reliability grow as a topic of political debate in Taiwan, though, they could become a factor in upcoming elections and the policies that flow from them.

Events in Afghanistan will not impact America’s determination to maintain a firm, steady military posture in the western Pacific. Arguably as important, though, senior American officials also will need to provide clear, authoritative messages to Taiwan’s leaders and public of America’s resolve to ensure differences in the Taiwan Strait are ultimately resolved peacefully and in a manner that reflects the will of Taiwan’s people.