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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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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.

What We’re Watching: EU goes green, Ethiopians at war, Taliban gains, Bolsonaro’s hiccups

Europe's green moonshot: The EU is going big on climate policy. On Wednesday the European Commission, the bloc's political cupola, committed to reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. These plans are the most ambitious of any large country or union on Earth: recent pledges by the US and China, the number one and number two polluters, are both more modest. The EU's proposals include new carbon trading schemes, investments in green tech, boosts for electric vehicles, and financial support to help lower-income communities adopt clean technologies. But as always, the EU's best-laid plans will still need to run through the wringer of 27 member states, each with their own agendas and constituencies. We, and the planet, are watching to see what things look like on the other side of that.

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As the US withdraws from Afghanistan all eyes are on Pakistan

As the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is now well underway, all eyes have turned to a country at the heart of the decades-long struggle for dominance there… Pakistan, where the effects of 20 years of Afghan war have been felt acutely.

Background. During the Cold War, the US and Pakistan worked closely together to foment jihadist resistance to Soviet influence in, and then occupation of, Afghanistan. But after the Soviet collapse, the bilateral relationship got more complicated, especially post 9/11, when the US went to war against the Afghan Taliban regime that still enjoyed close ties to the highly influential Pakistani military.

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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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“We’re going to see a descent back into chaos” in Afghanistan: Rep. Waltz

Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL) explains why he fears that a full US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan will create a power vacuum in Kabul, leading to chaos, destruction, and a national security threat for the US that will eventually require troops to be sent back in. Waltz, a former Green Beret who served multiple combat tours in Afghanistan and elsewhere, shares his concerns in a conversation with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World. He warns, "One of the things I don't know that everyone realizes is when the military goes, those contractors will go, the CIA, our eyes and ears on the ground will go." The interview on GZERO World airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Watch the GZERO World with Ian Bremmer episode.

Afghanistan’s next generation: a student shares her perspective on the US withdrawal

Shaista is a 22-year-old university student in Kabul, Afghanistan, and since she was two years old, her country has been occupied by American forces. Although she was fortunate to grow up in a relatively privileged situation with the ability to get an education, she says that nevertheless "the fear of losing my life has always been there." She shares her thoughts on the US troop withdrawal announcement and how worried she is about a Taliban takeover of her country.

Watch the GZERO World with Ian Bremmer episode.

The case against pulling out of Afghanistan this year

Earlier this month President Biden did what three of his predecessors could not: he announced an unconditional end to the war in Afghanistan after twenty years of American boots on the ground. This week, US Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret who served multiple tours in Afghanistan, joins GZERO World to explain why he thinks President Biden's announcement will end in catastrophe, for Afghans and Americans alike.

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