Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Christiana Wayne
Wednesday, August 18, 2021, 1:43 PM

The United Arab Emirates announced that former Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and his family are in the country four days after fleeing Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover, reports the Washington Post. A statement from UAE officials said the government welcomed Ghani “on humanitarian grounds.” Ghani has faced widespread criticism for fleeing Kabul as the Taliban entered the city, and Russian officials in the city claim that he left with four cars and a helicopter filled with cash. Ghani has not addressed the allegations, but he said leaving was a “hard choice” made to “prevent bloodshed.”

On Wednesday the Taliban faced their first street protests in multiple cities against the regime’s rise to power, according to the New York Times. Taliban soldiers met the protests with force in Jalalabad, firing into the crowd and beating protestors and journalists. At least two people were killed and a dozen were injured. These demonstrations come a day after the Taliban tried to assert itself as responsible leaders of Afghanistan. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Tuesday, “We don’t want Afghanistan to be a battlefield anymore. From today on, war is over.”

Special counsel John Durham, the prosecutor investigating the origin of the FBI’s probe into possible connections between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government, has recently used a grand jury to seek documents and witness testimony, according to the Washington Post. Durham’s recent inquiries seem to focus on whether people outside the government gave the FBI fabricated or exaggerated evidence. Despite criticism of the investigation from some Democrats, Attorney General Merrick Garland has allowed the probe to continue. So far, Durham has brought one criminal case, and his office is expected to issue a final public report.

The Biden administration announced a plan to overhaul the U.S. asylum system which includes doubling the number of staff to process cases, reports Reuters. The new regulations would allow asylum officers to access or reject migrants’ claims soon after they enter the country, bypassing backlogged immigration courts. This policy change comes as migrant arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border have reached their highest point in 20 years. The rules could take several months to finalize, and the current policy of immediately expelling migrants at the border during the coronavirus pandemic is still in effect.

Four student union leaders at the University of Hong Kong were arrested on a charge of“advocating terrorism,” according to the Washington Post. The students were holding a moment of silence during a live-streamed meeting for a man who stabbed a police officer then killed himself when city officials called for the arrests as part of the latest crackdown on freedom of expression under the new national security law in Hong Kong. The university has cut all ties with the students, and the organization subsidizing the legal costs of the arrested protestors announced it is ceasing operations. If convicted, the students would face a minimum of five years in prison.

The Cuban government has introduced new social media regulations in the wake of nationwide anti-government protests in the country, reports the BBC. The new policy makes inciting acts “that alter public order” a crime and orders internet companies to restrict access to users who “spread fake news or hurt the image of the state.” Mobile internet access was introduced in Cuba in 2018, but the government controls telecommunications companies, and access to social media sites was cut off in the days following the protests just over a month ago.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Lawfare Senior Editor Scott Anderson talks to Afghanistan policy experts Madiha Afzal of the Brookings Institution, Laurel Miller of the International Crisis Group and Jonathan Schroden of CNA about the fall of Afghanistan.

J. Dana Stuster reviewed a new book from the Brookings Institution Press, “The Uses and Abuses of Weaponized Interdependence,” edited by ​​Daniel W. Drezner, Henry Farrell and Abraham L. Newman.

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