Afghanistan

Will the Taliban be able to maintain control over the entire country of Afghanistan if the ongoing hunger and economic crisis worsens?

Civil disobedience is likely to expand from women's protests to widespread unrest, said journalist Ahmed Rashid, especially if humanitarian aid only reaches the hands of Taliban loyalists and the country’s urban elites.

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Is Peng Shuai really safe? The Women's Tennis Association has said that Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai's video call with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Sunday does not sufficiently address concerns about her safety and whereabouts. Peng disappeared from public life several weeks ago after accusing former Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her. Over the weekend, Chinese state media published photos of her at a restaurant and a tennis tournament, and she held a half-hour call with the IOC in which she said she was fine and asked for privacy. But no one can be sure that Peng wasn't coerced into making those statements. The WTA, which has threatened to pull tournaments out of China, continues to call for a full investigation into Peng's allegations, and the story is adding fresh impetus to calls for nations around the world to boycott the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.

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As the private sector innovates aid and financing, seeking holistic solutions to neighborhood challenges is the cornerstone of the approach.

Businesses, which rely on healthy communities for their own prosperity, must play a big part in driving solutions.

See why.

A much-feared humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan has now begun, and the country's Taliban government has issued an urgent appeal for cash. In particular, its foreign minister has called on Washington to help.

After the Taliban seized power in August, the US, World Bank, and International Monetary cut off Afghanistan's access to more than $9.5 billion in foreign reserves and loans. The Taliban want the Biden administration to release this money and to allow the World Bank and IMF, institutions in which Washington wields exceptional influence, to free up loans. So far, the White House has said no.

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The "Three Amigos" at the White House. On Thursday, Joe Biden will host the first US-Mexico-Canada summit since 2016, when Donald Trump scrapped the regular "Three Amigos" gathering, as it's known. This year the trilateral summit will focus on deepening economic cooperation among the three members of NAF— sorry, the "USMCA" free trade area. But expect Biden to get an earful from Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador about the "Buy American" aspects of his Build Back Better agenda, which could hurt Canadian and Mexican exporters. In particular, the Canadians and Mexicans are worried about Biden's plan to give tax credits to US-made electric vehicles. It's another example of how green policies can often raise red flags about protectionism as countries vie for leadership in climate-friendly technologies. We'll be watching to see how the three leaders iron out their differences, and also whether Steve, Chevy, and Martin show up for laughs.

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ASEAN gets tough(ish) with Myanmar: The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet Tuesday for their annual summit with one notable absence: the head of Myanmar's military junta. It's a rare snub from ASEAN, a regional bloc that's gotten a lot of heat in the past for giving tyrants a free pass. The junta says ASEAN violated its traditional principles of deciding by consensus by disinviting its leader, and non-interference in domestic affairs for demanding the bloc's special envoy meet detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For their part, the other ASEAN members have grown visibly alarmed at Myanmar's rapidly deteriorating political and economic situation since the February coup, and they're worried about the spillover effects of Myanmar becoming a failed state. More importantly, Myanmar is a big thorn in ASEAN's side as it walks a fine line between keeping warm ties with the US — which most members want cash and security from — and getting along with China, one of Myanmar's few remaining friends and viewed with suspicion by most ASEAN members over its South China Sea shenanigans.

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Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.

This week, the Kremlin hosted a summit with the Taliban that was attended by China, India and Pakistan, as well as all five Central Asian Republics.

The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?

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What We're Ignoring

Kim Jong Un's "invincible" military: North Korea's supreme leader is desperate for American attention these days. At the same time he's showing the South a little more love, Kim is lashing out at the US, now vowing to build an "invincible" army to defend his country from American hostility. The supreme leader, who just two weeks ago tested his first hypersonic missile, is doubling down on his strategy of getting more — and more powerful — weapons to convince President Joe Biden to stop ghosting him and return to the negotiating table. But it hasn't worked so far, and unless Kim has a bigger ace up his sleeve, the talks will remain frozen — as will North Korea's hopes of getting the US to lift economic sanctions in place because of Pyongyang's nuclear program.

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