Closing a Chapter
The US is officially out of Afghanistan – ending 20 years of war.
That’s a long time.
It is. In October 2001, the US invaded Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. The goal was to end the Taliban's rule and take down al-Qaeda. The Taliban – an Islamist militant group – had ruled Afghanistan since 1996, imposing harsh laws. Think: no music, movies, work for women, or schooling for girls past the age of 10. The group was quickly overthrown by US forces at the end of 2001. But growing threats of terrorism in the region and of the Taliban’s resurgence kept American boots on the ground for over a decade.
Tell me more.
Estimates show that about 70,000 Afghan security forces have been killed in the conflict. And over 3,500 soldiers have died since 2001 — most of whom were Americans. In 2020, former President Trump reached a deal with the Taliban to get US troops out by May 2021. But President Biden extended that deadline to Aug 31, saying the US accomplished its goals and that the country was done with the "unwinnable war." Yesterday – ahead of schedule – the Pentagon announced the last US flight out of Afghanistan took off. Military officials reportedly said the decision to depart hours early was intentional. And came amid a mix of concerns about things like stormy weather, potential ISIS-K attacks, and people storming the airport. And now, America's longest war is finally over.
It really happened.
Yes. But it hasn't been smooth sailing. In the two weeks leading up to the US’s withdrawal, the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan – raising concerns about women’s rights and the security of Afghan allies. Despite pleas from world leaders and US lawmakers, the Biden admin – facing threats from the Taliban – stood by its Aug 31 deadline. And pressed on with evacuations in the face of deadly ISIS-K bombings and attempted rocket attacks. Last week, 182 people died in two explosions near the Kabul airport – including 169 Afghans and 13 US service members. Meanwhile, more than 120,000 people – including 6,000 Americans – have been evacuated from the country. But not everyone got out.
Tens of thousands of Afghans and over 100 Americans are still in Afghanistan. Marine General Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, lamented that they didn't "get everybody out" in time. Biden's expected to address the nation today with the latest updates from the region. The Taliban – in an agreement with 98 countries – promised to let people leave Afghanistan safely. But after they gained full control of the Kabul airport, it's TBD if that promise will be kept.
Afghanistan’s fate is unclear. But one thing that's not: the US has closed a decades-long chapter. Now, it’ll be up to the US and other countries to determine how they’ll work with the Taliban, for the sake of thousands of Afghans left behind.
What people are still watching...
Ida. The storm’s wreaking havoc on Southern states after making landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on Sunday. Louisiana has suffered the brunt of the damage of Ida’s wrath. At least two people have died. And Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA) is warning the death toll could increase considerably. About 1 million people remain without power in Louisiana and Mississippi – including the entire city of New Orleans. Officials called the damage to the power grid "catastrophic." Some hard-hit areas could be waiting weeks for the power to turn back on. And with temps set to hit the mid-80s to near 90s, residents without AC or refrigerators could be dealing with hard days ahead. More than 2,200 people are staying in shelters. Four Louisiana hospitals suffered damage and 39 health facilities are running on generators. It’s prompted some hospitals to transfer patients amid a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations and infections. Meanwhile, Ida could bring up to 11 inches of rain in parts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
Climate change bells: Scientists have warned that the warming planet would intensify hurricanes. That’s exactly what happened with Ida. The Gulf of Mexico's warmer waters gave the storm added fuel – which allowed it to grow from a Category 1 to Category 4 in just about 24 hours.
Who’s saying ‘it’s not me, it’s you’...
The European Union. Yesterday, the EU recommended that its 27 member nations ban nonessential travel from US tourists – specifically, the unvaxxed. Two months after the bloc gave Americans the green light to relax on Italian beaches and eat croissants under the Eiffel Tower, it’s saying 'we made a mistake.' Why? 'Cause the US's pandemic approach is not up to EU standards. COVID-19 cases are rising. Some ICUs are at capacity. About 85 million eligible Americans are still unvaccinated. And plenty are apparently getting their medical advice from Facebook – buying up ivermectin (a horse dewormer) like macarons (PSA: please don’t, it’s not safe). Meanwhile, some governors are banning mask mandates in schools – prompting a civil rights probe from the Education Dept. But don’t cancel your trip just yet, since the new guidance is just a rec and not the law of the land. Meaning, each EU country will figure out its own travel requirements.
Psst…COVID-19 has been adding turbulence to a lot of travel plans. Here's theSkimm on travel insurance, from what's typically covered to how much it costs.
What’s on the rise…
Hate crimes. Yesterday, the FBI said that the number of hate crimes in the US rose last year to the highest level in 12 years. The federal agency says over 7,700 hate crimes were reported across the US in 2020 – a 6% increase from the year before. And that assaults targeting Black and Asian people drove the uptick. Attorney General Merrick Garland says the FBI’s data does “not account for the many hate crimes that go unreported.” But that could change thanks in part to new legislation. Earlier this year, President Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which provides grants to law enforcement agencies to better investigate the incidents and ordered that the Justice Dept prioritize anti-Asian hate crimes.
Who’s making history…
Nia DaCosta. Over the weekend, Universal Pictures said the “Candyman” filmmaker has become the first Black female director to have a #1 film at the US box office. We'll popcorn cheers to that.
What’s getting bedder...
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