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What We're Watching: Iraq's PM at the White House, France's vaccine passport, US bombs the Taliban

Iraqi PM's face-to-face with Biden: Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq's prime minister, met with President Biden at the White House Monday to discuss the future of US troops in Iraq. The US still has about 2,500 troops stationed in Iraq to engage in "counterterrorism" operations and train Iraqi forces. In an interview published this week, al-Kadhimi called for the withdrawal of all US combat troops, because, he said, Iraqi forces have proven capable of fighting ISIS militants on their own. (Just last week, some 30 Iraqis were killed when ISIS militants attacked a busy Baghdad market.) Al-Kadhimi still wants non-combat US troops to stay on in a training capacity. He became PM in 2020 as a consensus candidate after nationwide protests over corruption and joblessness forced the resignation of the unpopular previous government. At least 500 protesters were killed during a crackdown by Iraqi security forces, fueling demands for fresh elections, which are set to take place this October. The green PM has a tough job: he has to juggle relations with the Biden administration, which just pledged $155 million in aid to Iraq, and ties with Tehran, an influential player in Iraqi politics. (Iraq relies on Iran for energy imports, and Iran-backed militias inside Iraq are a force to be reckoned with.) Local sentiment has soured on the US presence as Iraqis resent being caught in the middle of US-Iran fights inside Iraqi territory.

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What We're Watching: Turkey's Afghanistan play, Indonesia as COVID epicenter, EU's rule of law report

Turkey's Afghanistan play: With the US withdrawal from Afghanistan nearly complete, many countries (and non-state actors) are vying for influence there. The latest player to enter the stage is Turkey, with president Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposing that Turkish troops defend and operate Kabul's international airport when the US is gone. Erdogan said that to make the plan work, the US would need to hand over logistical facilities to Ankara, and has called on Washington to back Turkey in ongoing diplomacy in Afghanistan, which it says is crucial to securing Kabul's airport, the main way into the country for the international community. The Americans, for their part, appear to be open to the idea. That's because it would mean handing over the headache of securing Afghanistan's only international airport to a fellow NATO member, reducing the likelihood of Afghanistan becoming completely shut off from the rest of the world in the (likely) event of a Taliban takeover. From Turkey's perspective, taking a more active role in stabilizing Afghanistan might earn it some goodwill from Washington and Brussels at a time when relations with both are at historic low points. The Taliban, meanwhile, said Turkey's pitch was "reprehensible."

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The Graphic Truth: Who controls Afghanistan?

The Taliban have already made massive territorial gains in Afghanistan since the Biden administration announced that it would withdraw all US forces by September of this year. In many instances, Afghan security forces have abandoned their bases and handed over territory rather than confront Taliban fighters directly. Recently, Taliban militants gained control of the Islam Qala crossing between Afghanistan and Iran, which generates $20 million in monthly revenue for the Afghan government. Days later, the critical Wesh-Chaman border crossing with Pakistan fell to Taliban control as well. With the US withdrawal already more than 90 percent complete, the Taliban already control more than half of all Afghan districts. So as the last few US forces prepare to leave, we take a look at who controls what in Afghanistan. Spoiler: it's a significantly different state of play from when we last mapped it out less than two years ago.


UPDATE: The graphic and text were updated on July 14, 2021 to include theTaliban capture of the Wesh-Chaman border crossing with Pakistan.

Haitian president's killing reflects unprecedented rise in violence

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

What do we know about the assassination of Haiti's president?

Well, we know it's not making an awful lot of news the assassination of the leader of a country, because Haiti's a tiny economy. It's incredibly poor, it's been devastated by natural disasters and also by general lawlessness in the country. And over the last month, gang violence has become historically unprecedented. The police have been unable to maintain law and order in the streets, in most of the cities or sort of, major towns in Haiti. You've had thousands of Haitians displaced. You've had dozens of civilians killed and then overnight a gang entered the personal residence of the president. Again, police and presidential guard unable to stop them and he's dead. And his wife, the First Lady is in the hospital. It's a pretty staggering situation and obviously, some international support, some peacekeepers could be useful on the ground. Aid by itself is not going to do it right now.

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What We're Watching: France's regional elections, the Taliban's gains, Sweden's government falls, NYC goes to the polls

Le Pen and Macron falter in regional elections: This weekend's regional elections across France were a massive blow for both President Emmanuel Macron and his La République En Marche party (LREM), as well as for his rival Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Rally party. Le Pen, who has been soaring in the polls in recent months ahead of presidential elections in May 2022, was hoping her party would win a state-wide race for the first time, but National Rally failed to pull through even in conservative regions like Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, where exit polls suggest that the center-right Republicans party, which has been almost irrelevant in recent years, will likely come out on top. Macron's LREM also performed terribly, taking just 10 percent of the vote nationwide. Macron and Le Pen tried to nationalize the regional polls by focusing on country-wide issues like COVID and immigration, but extremely low voter turnout makes it hard to draw broader conclusions. A second round of voting will take place next Sunday (two rounds of voting are conducted unless parties win more than 50 percent of the vote) and the National Rally is hoping for a comeback.

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​Is the US abandoning NATO in Afghanistan?

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week. Got a Quick Take for you. Wanted to talk a little bit about Afghanistan. The United States has announced, and not for the first time, that we will be leaving, ending the 20-year war. Detractors calling it The Forever War, and with good reason: it is the longest war that the United States has in its history ever fought, spending over a trillion dollars conservatively. Estimated well over 2000 American servicemen and women dead, over 40,000 Afghan civilians dead, and well over 70% of Americans want out, want to end the war. So you can understand why President Biden wanted to make that decision. You understand why former President Trump wanted to make that decision.

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