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What We're Watching: North Korean bluster, EU aid for Afghanistan, Tigray offensive

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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What We're Watching: Polish state of emergency, Ukraine-US meeting, South African nuclear power, Russia's troll

Poland weighs state of emergency: Poland is weighing whether to declare a state of emergency as thousands of immigrants continue to flood its border with Belarus. The order, which would be invoked for the first time since Communist rule, would allow the government to restrict people's movements in certain regions for 30 days. Poland, along with Latvia and Lithuania, has accused Belarus' strongman President Alexander Lukashenko of facilitating illegal border crossings, particularly for Iraqi migrants, as retribution for EU sanctions on Belarus. Indeed, there's even evidence that Belarusian troops physically pushed migrants to enter EU territory. Poland has registered more than 3,000 attempted crossings this month alone, and has responded by beefing up its border security, including erecting barbed wire fences. There are reports that Minsk is now planning on sending migrants from Morocco and Pakistan, which has absorbed the lion's share of Afghan refugees to date. Knowing that the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015 caused deep fissures within the 27-member bloc, is Lukashenko now trying to weaponize the Afghan refugee crisis to sow divisions within the EU just as the bloc is already concerned about another refugee crisis?

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Europe fears Afghan refugees will cause a political crisis

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What are the fears in Europe stemming out of what is happening in Afghanistan?

Well, there are of course, a lot fears coming, long-term security and other issues, the effect on global politics of this. But more immediate, of course, there is the refugee issue. There's enormous generosity when it comes to full accepting all of those that we've been able to evacuate that have been working with us in force over the years in Afghanistan. But there's also a fear that there will be a repetition of 2015. There are elections coming up in September in Norway and primarily in Germany and in the beginning of next year in France. And you can see the EU internal interior ministers meeting and you can see what President Macron is saying. And I think the reaction is going to be an enormous will to have humanitarian efforts in the region, the hope that the United Nations can stay in Afghanistan and can help in the region. And that is important. But then we also see, of course, that the walls are coming up. The Turks are building a wall on the border with Iran. Greece is building a wall on the border with Turkey. And add to that, of course, we have the problem of the weaponization of refugees. Lukashenko of Belarus is sort of deliberately, a sort of importing, smuggling, and paying for refugees to come to Minsk, and then he is hovering them over the border to Lithuania and Poland and Latvia in order to pressure those particular countries. That has to be reacted to. So, issues are going to be complex when it comes to Afghanistan. We're going to live with the Afghanistan issue for a very long time.

Does Biden’s deadline really mean anything?

Well, deadlines are deadlines. That, for now, seems to be the Biden administration's position on Afghanistan. On Tuesday, the White House announced it would not extend the current August 31 deadline for the full withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.

The decision flies in the face of efforts by US lawmakers from both parties and foreign allies, who have pressed the White House to extend the deadline. Seeing the chaos in Kabul airport and the Biden administration's botched handling of the withdrawal so far, they want more time to get Americans and other Western nationals out of the country, as well as the thousands of Afghans who supported the NATO mission or the former government and now face reprisals from the Taliban.

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The Graphic Truth: Who hosts the most Afghan refugees?

Afghanistan has been mired in conflict — spanning the Soviet invasion, civil war, and the US occupation — since the late 1970s, prompting a decades-long refugee crisis. In 2020, after the Trump administration announced the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and inked a subsequent deal with the Taliban, Afghans began leaving the country in droves, fearing exactly what we are seeing today: a Taliban takeover. Most have gone to neighboring Pakistan, as well as Iran. We take a look at which countries hosted the most Afghan refugees as of December 2020, and how that compares to their broader refugee populations.

No exit from Afghanistan

While much of the world watches the tragic and deadly chaos around Kabul's airport, a potentially much bigger migration crisis has already begun, and will only get worse in the coming weeks and months: huge numbers of Afghans desperately trying to flee the country as refugees or asylum-seekers.

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Europe in "shock & disbelief" over US withdrawal from Afghanistan

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What has been the European reaction to what's happening in Afghanistan?

Well, I think shock and disbelief is the appropriate expression for it. Shock and disbelief over the Americans just cutting out running, although you might argue that we should have seen it coming. And then, of course, a lot of long-term questions that will play out over time. Can the United States be relied upon, right or wrong? That question is going to linger for quite some time.

Are the EU nations prepared to accept Afghan refugees?

Well, the priority at the moment must of course be those that have worked for our forces, our development efforts, our embassies, and to get them out. As otherwise, Europe already has a substantial number, as a matter-of-fact Afghans are the number one nation when it comes to regular migration. Last year our figures for 2020 was 34,000 coming in. There are nearly 150,000 of them in Germany, there are 30,000 in Sweden. This is to compare with single digit thousand numbers in the US. So there will be an enormous effort to try to help displaced refugees in the region, and then the somewhat more managed global handling of the refugee issue will be called for.

Biden's speech on Afghanistan ignores serious failures; Afghan refugee crisis

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on President Biden's Afghanistan speech, the Afghan refugee crisis that will follow the Taliban takeover, and booster shots in the US.

What did you think of President Biden's speech on the Afghan withdrawal?

Two things. One, I thought he made a very compelling case for why the United States needed to leave when we did. The reduction in US troops that already happened under Trump, the strengthening of the Taliban, the difficulty of any expansion, I get all of that, but it was, listening to it as if the last 72 hours hadn't happened. He said that, "this is on me, the buck stops with me," but didn't talk really about any of the serious failures and how they could have occurred on the ground in Afghanistan. And there's a lot to answer for there. So I certainly don't give high marks to the speech, if I'm being honest with you. I'm doing my best.

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