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Peace In Afghanistan?

Peace In Afghanistan?

This week, the Trump administration began the latest round of negotiations with the Taliban intended to bring an end to the 17-year long war in Afghanistan. The work of the US envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, was abruptly upended last month when President Trump announced the intended withdrawal of about half of the 14,000 US troops still serving there. A spectacular attack by the Taliban on Afghan intelligence services earlier this week that killed more than 100 people didn't help.



But then yesterday, after months of diplomacy, there was a potential breakthrough, when the Taliban promised not to support militant groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS operating within the country's borders – a concession the US sees as important for guaranteeing the country doesn't once again become a haven for attacks against its citizens.

Is the longest war in US history coming to an end? Here's a few thoughts from your Friday author and special contributor Adam Pourahmadi on why we should be skeptical:

  • The Taliban: The latest attack by the Taliban proves that it's bargaining from a position of growing strength. Its leaders say they won't negotiate with the Afghan government until the US agrees its troops will leave the country and releases Taliban prisoners.
  • The US: President Trump doesn't like negotiating with those who have leverage, and he's very unlikely to order a troop withdrawal while the Taliban is on the attack. Nor is he likely to accept a deal that depends heavily on the Taliban keeping its promise that Afghanistan won't once again become a terrorist training ground. Particularly since the Taliban wants post-war Afghanistan to become an Islamic Emirate.
  • The Afghan government: There will be no lasting peace in Afghanistan until there's a sustainable balance of power between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Today, government control extends to just 56 percent of the country's territory, down from 72 percent in 2005. For now, the government in Kabul is not part of the talks, and the withdrawal of US troops would only weaken its negotiating position.
  • The Wildcard: Finally, it's not clear that the Taliban in the room with Khalilzad and those who carried out the latest attack are on the same team. The Taliban has factions, and it's not clear who can speak for all of them.

Microsoft released a new annual report, called the Digital Defense Report, covering cybersecurity trends from the past year. This report makes it clear that threat actors have rapidly increased in sophistication over the past year, using techniques that make them harder to spot and that threaten even the savviest targets. For example, nation-state actors are engaging in new reconnaissance techniques that increase their chances of compromising high-value targets, criminal groups targeting businesses have moved their infrastructure to the cloud to hide among legitimate services, and attackers have developed new ways to scour the internet for systems vulnerable to ransomware. Given the leap in attack sophistication in the past year, it is more important than ever that steps are taken to establish new rules of the road for cyberspace: that all organizations, whether government agencies or businesses, invest in people and technology to help stop attacks; and that people focus on the basics, including regular application of security updates, comprehensive backup policies, and, especially, enabling multi-factor authentication. Microsoft summarized some of the most important insights in this year's report, including related suggestions for people and businesses.

Read the whole post and report at Microsoft On The Issues.

On Tuesday night, you can finally watch Trump and Biden tangle on the debate stage. But you TOO can go head to head on debate night .. with your fellow US politics junkies.

Print out GZERO's handy debate BINGO cards and get ready to rumble. There are four different cards so that each player may have a unique board. Every time one of the candidates says one of these words or terms, X it on your card. First player to get five across wins. And if you really want to jazz it up, you can mark each of your words by taking a swig of your drink, or doing five burpees, or donating to your favorite charity or political candidate. Whatever gets you tipsy, in shape, or motivated, get the bingo cards here. It's fight night!

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GZERO Media, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group, today hosted its second virtual town hall on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges of its distribution.

The panel was moderated by New York Times science and health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli and featured Gates Foundation's Deputy Director of Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Lynda Stuart; Eurasia Group's Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director of Energy, Climate & Resources; Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman; and Gayle E. Smith, the president & CEO of ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Watch the full video above.

The enormous scale of the coronavirus pandemic was captured earlier this week as the global death toll surpassed 1 million people. As the weight of the grim milestone sunk in, the New York Times noted that COVID-19 has now killed more people this year than the scourges of HIV, malaria, influenza, and cholera — combined. While some countries like Germany and South Korea are models in how to curb the virus' spread through social distancing and mask wearing, other countries around the world have recently seen caseloads surge again, raising fears of a dreaded "second wave" of infections. Here's a look at countries where the per-capita caseload has spiked in recent days.

Donald Trump's presidency has irked a lot of people around the world. And in fairness, that's no surprise. He was elected in part to blow up long-standing assumptions about how international politics, trade, and diplomatic relations are supposed to work.

But while he has correctly identified some big challenges — adapting NATO to the 21st century, managing a more assertive China, or ending America's endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — his impulsive style, along with his restrictions on trade and immigration, have alienated many world leaders. Global polls show that favorable views of the US have plummeted to all-time lows in many countries, particularly among traditional American allies in Europe.

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