Morning Brief

Foreign Policy’s flagship daily newsletter with what’s coming up around the world today. Delivered weekdays.

Biden Defends Troop Withdrawal as Taliban Forces Advance

As U.S. focus moves elsewhere, regional powers are closely watching Afghanistan’s fate.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the situation in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House in Washington on July 8.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the situation in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House in Washington on July 8. Saul Loeb/AFP

Leaving Afghanistan

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. President Joe Biden sets new Aug. 31 deadline for Afghanistan troop withdrawal, the U.N. Security Council prepares for key Syria vote, and Haitian police say 26 Colombians and two American citizens made up president’s assassination squad.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Biden Accelerates Withdrawal Timetable

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. President Joe Biden sets new Aug. 31 deadline for Afghanistan troop withdrawal, the U.N. Security Council prepares for key Syria vote, and Haitian police say 26 Colombians and two American citizens made up president’s assassination squad.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Biden Accelerates Withdrawal Timetable

U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, despite the Taliban’s rapid territorial gains in recent weeks. In a White House address, Biden said all combat troops would leave Afghanistan by Aug. 31, even earlier than the Sept. 11 deadline he set back in April.

Heading off criticism from some conservatives, who have called for a small combat troop presence to remain in the country, Biden—a longtime skeptic of prolonged U.S. involvement in Afghanistan—questioned the cost of such a move.

“Let me ask those who want us to stay: How many more—how many thousands more Americans, daughters and sons—are you willing to risk?” Biden said. “I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.”

Taliban gains. Although nearly all U.S. troops are set to depart Afghanistan by August, a substantial number—roughly 650—will remain in the country to provide security for the U.S. Embassy and Kabul’s international airport. As Foreign Policy’s Jack Detsch reports, the United States will also keep an unknown number of contractors in Afghanistan to provide maintenance support for U.S. equipment in Afghan government hands.

As U.S. troops withdraw, Taliban forces have undertaken a blistering advance. Roughly one-third of Afghanistan is now under Taliban control, worrying some analysts that peace talks in Doha between the group and the Afghan government are being dragged out to facilitate a military offensive.

Regional balancing. While the U.S. focus moves elsewhere, other countries in the region are staking claims to Afghanistan’s future. In Moscow on Friday, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar meets with his counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, with Afghanistan at the top of the agenda. It follows India’s informal talks with Taliban representatives reported in June and a joint conference held between the Chinese, Afghan, and Pakistani foreign ministers that same month on the future of the war-torn country.

The Taliban have been eager to assure regional powers that their ascent won’t threaten the regional order. On Thursday, a Taliban delegation to Moscow led by co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar sought to assure Russian officials that they would keep their fight within Afghanistan’s borders. “We have very good relations with Russia,” Taliban spokesperson Mohammad Sohail Shaheen said.


What We’re Following Today

U.N. Syria vote. The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote Friday on whether to extend the mandate to deliver humanitarian aid to northwestern Syria ahead of its expiration this Saturday. Talks between Western powers and Russia appear deadlocked over how long to extend authorization to provide aid through Bab al-Hawa on the Turkish border: Western powers want the crossing opened for another year, while Russia will only allow a six-month extension. An initial plan to open another crossing on the Iraq-Syria border was dubbed a “nonstarter” by Russia’s U.N. ambassador. 

Haiti assassination aftermath. Twenty-six Colombians and two American citizens were part of the group responsible for assassinating Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, Léon Charles, the director of Haiti’s National Police, told reporters on Thursday. Colombia’s government has confirmed some of the attackers as former military service members. Speaking to the BBC, Haiti’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, said Moïse may have been targeted for his fight against “oligarchs” in the country.

While still under a “state of siege,” Joseph on Thursday ordered the reopening of Port-au-Prince’s international airport and urged Haitians to go back to work.

G-20 ministers meet. G-20 finance ministers gather in Venice Friday for a two-day summit that’s expected to build momentum behind a global minimum corporate tax rate, already agreed in principle by 130 nations. While the European Union is a member of the G-20, three of its members—Estonia, Hungary, and Ireland—have yet to back the deal. Italian Finance Minister Daniele Franco, the host of the summit, said he was confident of reaching an agreement that would “radically change the current international tax architecture.”


Keep an Eye On

Bulgaria votes. Bulgarians go to the polls for the second time in three months this Sunday after parties failed to form a government following elections in April. Polls predict another deadlock with former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s GERB party and the insurgent party There Is Such a People (ITN) receiving roughly equal support.

The elections come after Bulgaria was rocked in June as the United States placed sanctions on three Bulgarian individuals and 64 companies over alleged corruption. The U.S. sanctions also accused the oligarch Vassil Bozhkov of planning to create a channel to allow Russian leaders to influence the Bulgarian government.

Venezuela talks. Talks between the Venezuelan government and its opposition will take place in Mexico at the beginning of August, Reuters reports, the first such negotiations since 2019. Norway is expected to mediate the discussions between the two sides. President Nicolás Maduro is believed to be focused on relieving U.S. sanctions, while Juan Guaidó, the leader of Venezuela’s opposition, said his delegation would seek to establish free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections. A Norwegian delegation is expected to visit the capital of Caracas this week to lay the groundwork for negotiations.


Odds and Ends

The Chinese gaming giant Tencent will begin using facial recognition technology to prevent minors playing mobile video games past a nationwide gaming curfew. China established the 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfew in 2019 to combat gaming addiction—deemed a mental health disorder in 2018 by the World Health Organization.

Chinese children and teenagers had been circumventing the nighttime ban by using adult’s credentials to log in to the gaming service, prompting the technological intervention.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

More from Foreign Policy

The Taliban delegation leaves the hotel after meeting with representatives of Russia, China, the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Qatar in Moscow on March 19.

China and the Taliban Begin Their Romance

Beijing has its eyes set on using Afghanistan as a strategic corridor once U.S. troops are out of the way.

An Afghan security member pours gasoline over a pile of seized drugs and alcoholic drinks

The Taliban Are Breaking Bad

Meth is even more profitable than heroin—and is turbocharging the insurgency.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya addresses the U.N. Security Council from her office in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Sept. 4, 2020.

Belarus’s Unlikely New Leader

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya didn’t set out to challenge a brutal dictatorship.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid

What the Taliban Takeover Means for India

Kabul’s swift collapse leaves New Delhi with significant security concerns.