FirstFT: ‘Real danger’ of terror attack at Kabul airport, Nato chief warns

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The risk of a terrorist attack at Kabul airport is increasing every day, the head of Nato has warned, as he described the “dilemma” countries faced in deciding when to terminate efforts by foreign troops to airlift people out of Afghanistan. 

Speaking a day after US president Joe Biden opted to stick to his plan to withdraw US troops by the end of the month despite European opposition, Jens Stoltenberg, Nato secretary-general, said the terrorist threat faced at the airport was not “theoretical” but “a real danger”.

“On the one hand we would like to have as much time as possible to get as many people out as possible,” Stoltenberg said in an interview. “At the same time . . . if we stay beyond [the] 31 August [deadline], especially if we don’t have at least a kind of tacit consent of the Taliban, the danger increases [of] attacks.”

On Wednesday evening, the UK government updated its travel advice for UK nationals still in Afghanistan, advising them against travelling to Kabul airport because of the “high threat of a terrorist attack”.

Turkey has begun evacuating its troops from Kabul airport in an about-face that shows how swiftly security in Afghanistan is deteriorating. Russia, which has also expressed increased concern at the security situation in Afghanistan, started evacuating its citizens yesterday. Follow the latest coverage of Afghanistan on FT.com. (FT, NYT)

More on Afghanistan:

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

  • Escape from Kabul: Shaqaiq Birashk, an adviser on a US-funded Afghan government project, reveals how a special forces operation led to her escape from the Afghan capital.

Bubble chart showing the estimated number of evacuees relocated from Afghanistan as of 24 August 2021 by country of relocation

Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. You can share your feedback with me at emily.goldberg@ft.com — Emily 

Five more stories in the news

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2. OnlyFans reverses contentious porn ban OnlyFans has reversed its decision to ban sexually explicit content after founder Tim Stokely’s criticism of “unfair” banks sparked fresh conversations with financial institutions. The company announced yesterday that it had “secured assurances necessary to support our diverse creator community”.

3. Pinduoduo shares jump 22% after pledge to donate profits Shares in Pinduoduo rose more than one-fifth after the Chinese ecommerce group announced on Tuesday that it would donate $1.5bn in future earnings to charity as it posted its first quarterly profit since its initial public offering three years ago.

4. UK’s FCA ‘not capable’ of supervising Binance Financial Conduct Authority, one of the world’s leading financial regulators, has said it is “not capable” of properly supervising Binance despite the “significant risk” posed by the cryptocurrency exchange’s products, which allow consumers to take supercharged bets.

5. Angela Merkel successor loses poll lead Armin Laschet, candidate for Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democrats, is now under pressure to step up his campaign and prevent what could become his party’s worst electoral outcome in 70 years.

Coronavirus digest

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Thanks for voting in our poll. Seventy-six per cent of respondents said they support employer-issued Covid-19 vaccine mandates.

The day ahead

Earnings Hays, the UK recruitment company, reports full-year earnings today. The rebound in employment in the UK has been a source of hope amid the Covid-19 gloom not just for this group but the economy in general. Air New Zealand, Dell Technologies and TCS Group are also among the companies reporting today. See our full list here.

Joe Biden hosts Naftali Bennett During the Israeli prime minister’s first visit to the White House today, he is expected to push the US president to toughen his stance on Iran. (Reuters)

US revised growth figures Second-quarter growth figures are likely to be revised higher when they are released today, after a spate of stronger than expected data reflecting the economy’s reopening. The increase in Covid-19 infections caused by the Delta variant, however, could pose a risk. (Reuters)

What else we’re reading

Supply chains are a mess. So how come trade is booming? It seems perplexing that we’re heralding an export boom at the same time as economists in manufacturing powerhouses warn that difficulty sourcing parts is weighing on GDP numbers. Alphaville found a clue as to why this is in new data from the OECD.

Why we all lose if cinemas can’t solve their existential crisis The fight over how to pay actors, screenwriters and other creatives in the streaming era may be just beginning. Box office analysts are worried that the streaming habits we developed during the pandemic will stick, leading to a long-term decline in cinema attendance.

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.

Spotlight on ESG in Asia ESG equity funds in developed Asian nations recorded $3.6bn in inflows through June, up 187 per cent from the prior year period, Bank of America reports. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange’s board diversity push has come under fire and China’s carbon market got off to a shaky start. More in our Asia-focused edition of Moral Money. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Banking on cannabis US federal law still classifies marijuana as an illegal substance. That’s why America’s biggest banks have opted out of serving cannabis companies. But relief has largely come thanks to a small group of financial services companies that has sprouted up to cater to the weed industry.

Books

India, the world’s largest democracy, is changing in fundamental ways, raising questions about whether it should even be called a democracy at all. These two new books underline the speed of that shift, giving subtly different but equally pessimistic accounts of the country’s trajectory.

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