Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Christiana Wayne
Tuesday, August 24, 2021, 3:23 PM

CIA Director William Burns visited Kabul to meet with Taliban leaders earlier this week, according to the New York Times. These talks were the highest level meeting between the Biden administration and the new government in Afghanistan. Burns met Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban leader who led previous negotiations with the United States in Qatar. A key negotiating point was extension of the Aug. 31 deadline set by President Biden for full withdrawal of American troops. The Taliban has warned of consequences if the president keeps troops in the country past that declared date.

The Taliban has blocked access to the Kabul airport for Afghans as thousands are trying to flee the country, reports the New York Times. At a press conference today, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, “The road that ends at the Kabul airport has been blocked. Foreigners can go through it, but Afghans are not allowed to take the road.” The action comes as the Biden administration and European allies are considering an extension of the troops withdrawal deadline so that the remaining forces in the country can evacuate more Afghan allies of the U.S. government that the administration promised to protect. Mujahid urged Afghan citizens to return home, claiming that the regime would “guarantee their security,” but witnesses have already reported that the Taliban is actively seeking out people who worked with U.S. and NATO forces. Mujahid did not say how long the road to the airport would be blocked.

United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said reports of the Taliban carrying out summary executions are “credible,” according to the BBC. She told the UN Human Rights Council that other violations of human rights have been reported, including restrictions on women and the recruitment of child soldiers. Since their takeover of Afghanistan last week, the Taliban has tried to project a more restrained image of the regime than their time in power before 2001, promising rights for women and girls and some freedom of expression. Bachalet urged the UNHCR to create a body dedicated specifically to monitoring human rights in Afghanistan.

Igor Fruman, an associate of Rudy Guiliani and co-defendant with Lev Parnas, is expected to plead guilty in connection with his indictment on charges of campaign finance violations during his activities on behalf of Donald Trump, reports the Washington Post. Fruman and Parnas both originally pleaded not guilty, but court documents show Fruman will appear in federal court tomorrow for a change-of-plea proceeding. The documents did not say on what counts he will plead guilty or whether he will be cooperating with prosecutors. Guiliani asked both men to help him find information overseas that he hoped would be damaging to President Biden during the 2020 presidential campaign. Guiliani is currently being investigated for his connection with Ukrainian figures while he was Trump’s personal attorney in possible violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, though he has not been charged.

Enrique Tarrio, leader of the extremist group Proud Boys, was sentenced to five months in prison for burning a Black Lives Matter flag and bringing two high-capacity firearm magazines to Washington days before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, according to NPR. Tarrio was arrested two days before the riots. Law enforcement officers later said his arrest was made partly to quell potential violence in the capital. Authorities say Tarrio and other members of the extremist group stole a Black Lives Matter banner from Asbury United Methodist Church on Dec. 12 in Washington and set fire to it. Senior pastor of the church Rev. Dr. Ianther Mills said the act caused “immeasurable and possibly irreparable harm” to the community. In December a police spokesperson said the incident was being investigated as a possible hate crime, but no hate crime charges were filed against Tarrio.

A month after Israel instituted a coronavirus vaccine booster program, the country is seeing signs of an impact on its high infection and severe illness rates due to the Delta variant of the coronavirus, reports Reuters. Infections due to the variant spiked in Israel in June, just as the country was seeing the benefits of one of the world’s fastest vaccine rollouts. In the past 10 days, Israel has reported a falling rate of disease among people over 60, more than a million of whom have received a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Lawfare COO David Priess talks to Tom Nichols about his new book, “Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault from within on Modern Democracy.”

Justin Sherman explained the threat of data brokers advertising data on U.S. military personnel.

Jessica Davis discussed the challenges to understanding the Taliban’s finances.

Nicol Turner Lee shared an episode of TechTank which covers the bipartisan infrastructure bill’s plan for closing rural broadband gaps.

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