FirstFT: Biden squeezed on Afghanistan evacuation deadline

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World updates

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Joe Biden will come under pressure today from western allies who want the US-led evacuation from Afghanistan extended beyond August 31, while facing the humiliating prospect that the Taliban may veto any delay.

The likelihood of an extension receded after the Islamist group warned that any delay of the withdrawal of foreign forces would be a “violation”.

At an emergency G7 meeting, the US president will hear calls from allies including Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, and Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, to negotiate with the Taliban over the issue.

In the Panjshir valley, the last pocket of resistance to the Islamists’ takeover has come under attack, threatening opposition fighters’ hopes of building a unity government.

Afghanistan is facing a “gender emergency”, the UN agency for women’s empowerment warned, as militants prevent women from leaving home and participating in public life.

Chart showing that Afghanistan ranks near the bottom on most socio-economic measures, Legatum prosperity score, 2020

More on Afghanistan:

Do you think the US should extend its evacuation deadline? Tell me what you think at jennifer.creery@ft.com. Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. — Jennifer

Five more stories in the news

1. UK manufacturers win post-Brexit quality concession The government is to grant a big concession to business by prolonging the deadline to adopt a new UKCA safety and quality mark for goods by a year.

  • Brexit break-up: Brussels’ plan to block the UK from joining an international legal co-operation agreement will complicate divorce settlements and child maintenance awards, lawyers warned.

2. Investors pump $4.3bn into air taxis Funding for the nascent market in air mobility hit a record in 2021 from venture capital and planned mergers with special purpose acquisition companies, as investors sought “the next Tesla” despite most start-ups lacking a prototype able to carry passengers.

“We have companies that don’t yet have a product selling the dream and raising billions” — Peter Harrop, chair of tech consultancy IDTechEx

3. US Treasury conditions worsen ahead of Jackson Hole Bond liquidity has deteriorated as jerky price movements and uncertainty in Federal Reserve policy have kept investors from making big bets ahead of Jay Powell’s speech at the Jackson Hole summit.

  • Opinion: Powell should be bold and offer an eye-grabbing policy announcement for economic wellbeing, writes Mohamed El-Erian,

4. Circle to simplify USD Coin reserves The US payments group said it would take a conservative approach to managing the reserves backing its stablecoin, which will consist exclusively of cash and short-term US government debt from September, as it pursues a stock market listing.

  • More on crypto: International bitcoin “miners” are reaping rewards from China’s effective ban on the energy-intensive practice, filling the vacuum left by their former rivals.

5. China warns officials over business links The Chinese Communist party has warned thousands of officials in the city of Hangzhou, home of tech groups including Jack Ma’s Alibaba, to root out any “conflicts of interest” in their families with businesses.

Coronavirus digest

  • Joe Biden urged US employers to require workers to get vaccinated after the FDA granted full approval to BioNTech/Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine. The UK has ordered 35m more doses of the jab for the second half of next year.

  • Data from Israel showed a third dose of Pfizer’s jab improved protection from infection and serious illness among those 60 and older. The drugmaker agreed to buy oncology biotech Trillium Therapeutics in a deal worth about $2.3bn.

  • Taiwan’s first locally developed vaccine became available yesterday. India approved the world’s first DNA vaccine. (FT, Straits Times, BBC)

Cambridge’s “Silicon Fen” profits from being a “safe place to do risky things” but the UK needs to act to protect it, writes Brooke Masters. Follow our live coronavirus blog and sign up here for our Coronavirus Business Update newsletter.

The day ahead

G7 talks on Afghanistan Boris Johnson will host crisis talks today with world leaders as Britain presses the US to extend the evacuation timetable beyond August 31. The UN Human Rights Council also holds an extraordinary session on Afghanistan.

Tokyo Paralympic Games begin The Games will be held largely without spectators following a surge in Covid cases that has extended a state of emergency across Japan’s large cities. (Yahoo!)

For a preview of the events happening around the world, sign up to The Week Ahead email, delivered to your inbox every Sunday.

What else we’re reading

Could economic and political turmoil radicalise a generation? Hit hardest by an economic shutdown that disrupted jobs more than assets, people in their early 20s are mobilising around issues such as racial justice and climate change, as many feel marginalised from mainstream politics.

Column chart of Unemployment rate in OECD countries showing Young people and women have been hit hard by jobs crisis

The UK’s broken labour market Empty supermarket shelves are a visible message from a workforce that is usually invisible: truck drivers. They tell a story of how migration, a weakly regulated labour market and hugely powerful retailers have allowed goods and services to become unsustainably cheap, writes Sarah O’Connor.

Most super apps are not super great The most valuable real estate in the world is not in Hong Kong or Monaco — it’s in your pocket. Smartphone home screens have space for about 30 apps. It’s no wonder tech companies are racing to become one-stop “super apps”, writes Tim Bradshaw. But the trend is annoying to users and hostile to competition.

Tim Bradshaw: ‘Smartphone penetration is reaching saturation and, by some estimates, the number of apps we each use has peaked’
Tim Bradshaw: ‘Smartphone penetration is reaching saturation and, by some estimates, the number of apps we each use has peaked’ © Mitch Blunt

IMF chief: how to make the most of special drawing rights Yesterday, IMF member countries began receiving shares of a $650bn special drawing rights allocation, the largest ever. In 2009, a $250bn allocation helped to restore market confidence. Amid the pandemic, SDRs are even more important, writes Kristalina Georgieva.

How business can stop the ESG backlash With companies being held to account for their stewardship of human and natural as well as financial capital, honesty about impact is needed to build confidence, argues Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson. Sign up to Moral Money, our ESG newsletter, for more.

© Matt Kenyon
The momentum behind environmental, social and governance-themed investing has seemed unstoppable for the past few years. Now, the backlash has begun © Matt Kenyon

Podcast

In Finding Q, a new podcast extremist conspiracy theories, British journalist Nicky Woolf searches for the architect of the online movement that has inched its way dangerously into the mainstream.

Jake Angeli, one of the QAnon supporters who raided the Capitol building in January 2021
Jake Angeli, one of the QAnon supporters who raided the Capitol building in January 2021 © Olivier Touron/AFP/Getty Images

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