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What We Are Reading

What We Are Reading

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Key Reads

Heavy clashes erupt between Taliban and anti-Taliban group in Afghanistan’s Panjshir province
Mohammed Tawfeeq and Nathan Hodge / CNN
Heavy clashes erupted Thursday night around Afghanistan’s northern Panjshir Valley between Taliban fighters and an anti-Taliban group, according to a source within the group. Panjshir Valley, a mountainous, inaccessible region north of Kabul, is the last major holdout against Taliban rule, and has a long history of resisting the insurgent group. Sporadic fighting between the Taliban and the National Resistance Front (NRF) has continued for two weeks now. The Taliban have been massing forces in and around Panjshir province in recent weeks, and said on Monday they had captured three districts in the valley. The overnight clashes between the Taliban and the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF) started late Thursday, and were very intense, said the NRF source.

With dozens dead and rescue efforts ongoing, NYC mayor says the dire future experts warned of is now
Madeline Holcombe / CNN
After Ida’s remnants swept through the East Coast and left at least 46 people dead, New York’s mayor urged everyone to see the storm as “the biggest wake-up call we could possibly get.” “We are in a new world now, let’s be blunt,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday, adding that the intensity and frequency of storms are rising and the US is going to have to do a lot of things “differently” and “quickly.” Late Thursday, the White House said President Joe Biden had approved an emergency declaration for New York and New Jersey after at least 39 people died in those two states alone.

Climate Security

Storm heightens a sense of vulnerability to climate change.
Jonah Bromwich / The New York Times
Two days after the remnants of Hurricane Ida brought a sudden and ferocious storm to the Mid-Atlantic region, residents on Friday confronted the fallout from a downpour that killed at least 43 people across four states and illustrated with frightening clarity the threat posed by a changing climate. The damage was all the more harrowing given that it came with relatively little warning from political leaders who were already contending with a pandemic that continues to kill thousands of Americans each week. Those leaders, from President Biden down to New York’s Democratic nominee for mayor, Eric Adams, expressed a similar sentiment in their reactions to the storm: Climate change is here.

Southeast Asia could lose $28 trillion if it fails to act fast on climate change, report finds
Charmaine Jacob / CNBC
Southeast Asia’s economy could lose trillions of dollars over the next 50 years if the region does not act to reduce carbon emissions significantly, a Deloitte report found. In fact, the region is at a turning point, and can turn the cost into an opportunity, the report said. If Southeast Asia steps up efforts on climate change and rapidly reduces emissions, it could achieve economic gains of $12.5 trillion in present value terms — with an average GDP growth of 3.5% each year for the next 50 years, according to the consulting firm.

Kerry urges China to cut emissions faster, as Beijing seeks easing of solar sanctions
Eva Dou / The Washington Post
U.S. climate envoy John F. Kerry said Friday he hopes Beijing will agree to cut carbon emissions faster to address the climate crisis, as he wrapped up talks in which Chinese officials pressed for American concessions in other areas that have strained relations. Kerry said in a telephone interview from an airport in South Korea that Chinese officials are finalizing a “comprehensive” plan for curbing emissions in the country, even as Beijing pushed for the United States to lift sanctions on solar panel makers in exchange for greater cooperation on climate change. “We made some progress. That’s the bottom line,” he said. “In diplomacy, you don’t always get everything you want in one fell swoop.”

Asymmetric Operations

Taliban to ‘actively support’ belt and road plan of ‘trustworthy friend’ China
Shi Jiangtao / South China Morning Post
Afghanistan will continue to participate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the Taliban have said, expressing hopes to rely on Beijing’s investment and support to rebuild the war-ravaged country while promising to protect Chinese interests there. The pledge from Abdul Salam Hanafi, deputy director of the Taliban’s office in Doha, Qatar, came as China aimed to consolidate relations with the Afghan regime led by the Islamic militant group, despite many uncertainties.

Europe Eyes Afghanistan Presence as It Steps Up Talks With Taliban
Laurence Norman / The Wall Street Journal
The European Union is stepping up its engagement with Afghanistan’s new Taliban authorities as it tries to prevent a wave of refugees, and help EU citizens and at-risk Afghans leave the country. EU officials said political recognition of the new government remains off the table for now but on Friday said they would establish a representative office in Kabul as soon as security conditions permit. Germany, France, the EU and others have held talks with the Taliban in Qatar but the bloc’s move to re-establish a diplomatic presence in the country marks a step toward acceptance of the new Afghan authorities. The EU wants to link some form of political recognition for the Taliban to several goals Western countries have set. Those include clear steps by the Taliban to cut ties to terrorist groups, build a broad-based government, respect basic human rights and permit the continued exit of foreign nationals and at-risk Afghans.

American Competitiveness & Economic Diplomacy

Economy gained 235,000 jobs in August vs. 720,000 expected, in sign of delta’s impact
Martha White / NBC News
The U.S. economy added just 235,000 jobs in August, compared to the 720,000 expected by economists, in a sign that the delta variant of the coronavirus is weighing on economic growth. The unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent from 5.4 percent, according to Friday’s release of monthly data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data kept forecasters guessing heading into Friday’s release of monthly data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Weekly initial jobless claims published Thursday fell to 340,000, a pandemic-era low, but private sector job growth released by payroll processor ADP on Wednesday badly undershot economists’ projections, coming in at 374,000 rather than the 600,000 that had been forecast.

China’s SMIC to Build $8.87 Billion Chip Production Line in Shanghai
Stephanie Yang / The Wall Street Journal
Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., China’s largest chip maker, said it is teaming up with the Shanghai government to build an $8.87 billion chip production line in the city, furthering China’s ambitions for semiconductor self-sufficiency in the middle of a global chip shortage. In a Friday regulatory filing, SMIC said that the chip production facility will be built through a joint venture with the Shanghai government’s Lin-Gang Free Trade Zone Administration. It would specialize in the mature technologies of 28-nanometer process nodes and higher and churn out 100,000 12-inch wafers a month when complete, SMIC said.

China will create a stock exchange in Beijing
Laura He / CNN
China will set up a new stock exchange in Beijing, giving the nation’s capital and political center more influence in the world of business and finance. President Xi Jinping announced the Beijing-based exchange at an international trade fair on Thursday, saying that he wanted to create a venue for “service-oriented” and “innovative” businesses. He did not say when the exchange would be established. China already has two stock exchanges on the mainland, but they are located in Shanghai and Shenzhen, far away from Beijing.

Energy Security

Feds responding to reports of oil and chemical spills in Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Ida
CBS News
Federal and state agencies say they are responding to reports of oil and chemical spills resulting from Hurricane Ida following the publication of aerial photos by The Associated Press. Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Nick Conger said Thursday that a special aircraft carrying photographic and chemical detection equipment was dispatched from Texas to Louisiana to fly over the area hard hit by the Category 4 storm, including a Phillips 66 refinery along the Mississippi River where the AP first reported an apparent oil spill on Wednesday.

Oxygen Shortage Forces Texas Refinery to Shut Part of Key Unit
A refinery in the key oil hub of the Texas Gulf Coast shut part of a key process unit due to a lack of oxygen supply amid a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic, with authorities citing increased medical demand for the gas. Citgo Petroleum Corp. is shutting down a section of a sulfur recovery unit known as a B-train for four days due to the loss of third-party oxygen supply “resulting from increased medical field demand,” according to a state environmental filing. The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment and the filing didn’t indicate an impact to production.

Nigeria Races to Extract Its Oil Before It’s Too Late
William Clowes, Anthony Osae-Brown and Paul Burkhardt / Bloomberg
Nigeria’s vast reserves of oil and gas have generated great riches but are also blamed for fostering conflict, corruption and poverty. Now the country’s leaders want to almost triple its crude production as a warming world seeks to accelerate a move away from fossil fuels. After years of stagnant oil output, the government finally enacted a long-delayed law cutting taxes levied on energy companies to more globally competitive levels. The government also wants to revamp moribund state-owned refineries to help wean Africa’s largest crude producer off refined fuel imports.

National Security Strategy

S Korea developing missile as powerful as nuclear weapon
Al Jazeera
South Korea is in the final stages of developing a surface-to-surface ballistic missile as powerful as a tactical nuclear warhead, Yonhap news agency reported, as the country unveiled budget proposals aimed at bolstering its defences against North Korea. The missile is designed to destroy underground missile facilities and bases by penetrating underground tunnels to nullify nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) ahead of their launches. The report said it can also reach all areas of North Korea if fired from around the inter-Korean border. The project went ahead after the full lifting of US-imposed restrictions on missile development.

Syria Villagers Fear Exit of American Troops After U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan
Jared Malsin / The Wall Street Journal
After the chaotic withdrawal of the last U.S. forces from Afghanistan, leaders in this corner of Syria say they fear a departure of the roughly 900 American soldiers, backed by U.S. air power, who patrol areas held by an American-allied militia and, they say, are essential to protecting them from hostile forces. “If they withdraw, the next day we’ll be attacked from all sides, the regime from this way, Turkey from that way,” said Benkin Hussein, 45, an unemployed man in Tall Adh-Dhahab.

Nuclear Security

Iran Digs In on Nuclear Talks, Boosted by China and Russia
Jonathan Tirone / Bloomberg
U.S. and European efforts to coax Iran back into nuclear negotiations as soon as this month are being blunted by support the Islamic Republic’s already emboldened leaders are receiving from China and Russia. The result is that three years after former President Donald Trump imposed his “maximum pressure” policy, Iran has enriched uranium close to weapons grade while its economy is showing some signs of stabilizing with the help of Beijing and Moscow, even as crucial oil exports remain heavily sanctioned.

China Pushes for Nuclear Weapons Buildup After U.S. Claims it Will Surpass Russia’s Arsenal
Jenni Fink / Newsweek
The Global Times, a China state-run media outlet, denied its nuclear arsenal will surpass Russia’s nuclear capabilities anytime soon, but advocated for continuing to develop the weapons to deter a conflict with the United States. A top adversary of the United States, China’s buildup of its nuclear arsenal raised concerns among U.S. officials. U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas Bussiere, who oversees America’s arsenal, warned that China’s rapid development was no longer aligned with public comments that Beijing’s goal was a minimum nuclear deterrent and said in a few years, the nuclear threat presented by China could exceed that of Russia’s.


Climate change: Arctic warming linked to colder winters
Matt McGrath / BBC News
A new study shows that increases in extreme winter weather in parts of the US are linked to accelerated warming of the Arctic. The scientists found that heating in the region ultimately disturbed the circular pattern of winds known as the polar vortex. This allowed colder winter weather to flow down to the US, notably in the Texas cold wave in February. The authors say that warming will see more cold winters in some locations.

Recent Reports

Fact Sheet – Climate Security Challenges in Northeastern Florida
Adam Despang and David Haines
Florida is home to three Combatant Commands and over 20 bases that represent all branches of the U.S. military. The state provides more than 180,000 square miles of irreplaceable training grounds for U.S. pilots over the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Climate change, however, poses clear risks to these security assets.

On Our Flashpoint Blog

Event Recap: Climate Change and National Security in Northeastern Florida
Adam Despang
On August 24, The American Security Project (ASP) and the Northeast Florida Regional Planning Council, in partnership with ADAPT, hosted a panel discussion in Jacksonville, FL with Lieutenant General John Castellaw USMC (Ret.) and City of Jacksonville Council Members Randy DeFoor and retired U.S. Navy Captain Aaron Bowman, on why combating climate change in the greater Jacksonville area is imperative for America’s national security.

ASP in the News: LtGen John Castellaw USMC (Ret.) in the Florida Times-Union
Dominique Varier
Former ASP Board Member Lieutenant General John Castellaw USMC (Ret.) discusses the relationship between climate change and national security in Florida.

Biden-Zelensky Summit: pipelines and peace up for discussion
Lera Toropin
President Biden and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, are set to meet in Washington at the end of the month to recalibrate U.S.-Ukraine relations and discuss issues like the Nord Stream II, Donbas, and NATO.

ASP in the News: Director of Strategic Communications Annie Aleman on ABC 6/KAAL TV
Jennifer Soler
Director of Strategic Communications Annie Aleman was featured on ABC 6/KAAL TV to discuss the unrest happening in Afghanistan due to U.S. Withdrawal.

ASP in the News: Adjunct Fellow Matt Zeller in MSNBC
Jennifer Soler
Adjunct Fellow Matt Zeller was featured on MSNBC to examine the events unfolding in Afghanistan as a result of the Taliban’s seize and U.S. withdrawal.

ASP in the News: Senior Fellow David Haines on WAVY
Lera Toropin
ASP Senior Fellow for Climate Security David Haines was featured on WAVY-TV to discuss the necessary steps and funding needed to combat climate change.