FirstFT: Biden refuses to extend Afghanistan evacuation

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Joe Biden is sticking by his plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by the end of the month, defying international pressure including from European allies to allow more time for evacuations.

The US president’s decision capped days of uncertainty about the August 31 deadline for the American military pullout from the country. Biden had faced calls from Britain, France and Germany to extend the mission, including during yesterday’s G7 meeting.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson, said the Islamist group would allow foreigners to leave but ordered Afghans not to go to Kabul’s airport because of the chaotic crowds and the risk of stampedes.

Mujahid rejected suggestions that the Taliban was searching for individuals associated with the old regime, saying the group had announced a general amnesty. He said hospitals and schools had reopened, and banks were due to resume business today.

More on Afghanistan:

  • A CIA meeting with the Taliban marked the highest-level in-person meeting between the Biden administration and the militants since they took power.

  • Go deeper: Decades in exile have made the militant group’s leaders more worldly, but they may struggle to control their foot soldiers.

  • Opinion: Afghanistan faces an economic crisis as well as a humanitarian one, writes the country’s former central bank chief. The FT View is that Taliban should not have a veto on the Afghanistan evacuation.

For expert insight on what happens next in Afghanistan, join FT correspondents and guests including Ajmal Ahmady, Afghanistan’s former central bank governor, at our subscriber-only webinar today at 2.30pm BST. You can register here. — Jennifer

Five more stories in the news

1. House Democrats agree $3.5tn spending deal The 220-212 vote marked a step towards enacting Joe Biden’s economic agenda, which calls for investments in the US social safety net, including education, child care and green energy. Lawmakers will proceed with a more detailed version of the legislation later this year.

2. UK targets social media, gaming and videos The government will take aim at social media companies, video streaming and gaming platforms with a sweeping set of regulations to protect children’s data online that will come into force on Thursday next week.

3. David Giroux cuts stock exposure A top-rated active fund manager at T Rowe Price has backed away from a “rich” US equity market, reflecting nerves among investors about the lofty valuations that have become entrenched since markets rebounded from the pandemic lows of last year.

4. OnlyFans founder blames banks for porn ban Tim Stokely has blamed “unfair” treatment by banks for forcing him to ban pornography on the platform, a decision that caused an outcry from the site’s users and sowed doubt over its future.

5. Charlie Watts dies at 80 The Rolling Stones drummer’s death was announced by the band’s publicist, who said that he “passed away peacefully in a London hospital” surrounded by his family. Watts had undergone treatment for an unspecified medical condition recently.

In a tweet, Sir Elton John described Charlie Watts as ‘the ultimate drummer’
In a tweet, Sir Elton John described Charlie Watts as ‘the ultimate drummer’ © Reuters

Coronavirus digest

  • UK government advisers are set to recommend third Covid-19 vaccine doses from September for people with weakened immune systems. Hospital deaths in England reached the highest level in five months.

  • Premier League clubs have refused to release players for World Cup qualifier games in countries that are on the UK’s red list.

  • Scotland announced plans for an independent inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.

  • Commodity prices from iron ore to oil rallied yesterday as concerns eased about Covid’s impact on the Chinese economy.

  • Goldman Sachs will require proof of vaccination from all staff and clients entering its offices next month. Do you think employers should require Covid vaccination certifications? Tell us in our latest poll.

In our latest Coronavirus Business Update, Darren Dodd wrote about how supply chain woes are leaving companies struggling to cope. Sign up for the newsletter and follow our live coronavirus blog.

The day ahead

Biden-Big Tech cyber security talks The US president will host Apple’s Tim Cook, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and Amazon’s Andy Jassy today to discuss how companies are improving cyber security after a series of breaches and ransomware attacks. (The Verge)

Myanmar’s Rohingya crackdown anniversary It is four years since the country’s military, which has since seized power in a coup, launched a violent campaign against the Muslim Rohingya minority. The Biden administration has stopped short of calling it a genocide. (Politico)

Earnings Qantas Airways reports earnings along with Grafton Group and the National Bank of Canada.

What else we’re reading

Banking on cannabis US marijuana companies are caught between state and federal law, which still classifies the drug as an illegal substance, and pay high fees for financial services from less well-known firms. With a market worth about $20bn in sales in 2020, cannabis can claim to be the biggest underbanked industry in the country.

France’s ‘fachosphere’ feeds rightwing election hopes Nativist social media ideologues are using sex appeal and jokes to express extreme views ahead of France’s presidential election next year. Their central message: migration and what they claim is foreigners’ failure to integrate.

‘Bonkers’ Brexit battles persist The decision to extend a deadline for companies to certify manufactured products with a UK quality mark may seem just another bit of Brexit administration. In fact, it is ideology again colliding with reality and losing, argues Helen Thomas.

Crypto exchanges are booming, for now An explosion in bitcoin’s popularity has supercharged previously small-time platforms into powerhouses generating millions of dollars in revenues every day. How long can the bonanza last, asks Eva Szalay.

‘A true monopoly’: fee fight reveals Broadridge’s heft The obscure Wall Street utility operates the financial plumbing that most investors never think about. But fees as high as 25 cents an email to send mass correspondence to investors are riling industry executives.

Style

The pandemic has changed how we do our jobs and the clothing we do them in. Robert Armstrong asks: what price will we pay for sartorial freedom?

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