Afghanistan Kabul
Kabul International Airport on Monday, August 16 (Image: AP)

FALL OF KABUL

Thousands of Afghans fleeing Taliban rule have swarmed the tarmac of Kabul’s international airport as a US military plane departed. Seven people are reported dead amid the chaos, while US forces say they killed at least two armed men. All military and civilian flights out of Kabul are now grounded, The New York Times reports, but the US says they’re confident they will regain control of the airport — they’re sending another 1000 troops to help evacuate thousands of American citizens, embassy employees and their families, and “particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals”.

The Australian Defence Force said 250 of our troops are headed over to evacuate about 200 Australian citizens and visa holders, the SMH reports. The Conversation’s Michelle Grattan reports friends of Australia’s efforts — like language translators — will also be evacuated. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and France’s Emmanuel Macron will take part in an emergency meeting of G7 leaders to discuss the unfolding situation. More than 60 countries have issued a joint statement calling on the Taliban to allow people to leave, the BBC reports.

Meanwhile, residents of Kabul are painting over advertisements of women without headscarves, and the Taliban is reportedly searching for people they consider American collaborators. It is unlikely that the Taliban will sever all ties with al-Qaeda as promised, The Australian ($) says. Yesterday Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was “absolutely devastated” about the future for Afghanistan’s women and girls under the Taliban’s rule — the Taliban’s deputy has said before that women’s rights had led to immorality and “anti-Islamic” values in Afghanistan. Zakia Khudadadi, who was set to be the first woman to represent Afghanistan at the Paralympic Games, will no longer go.

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CLOSED SYSTEM

A quick look at COVID news around the country, as reported by Guardian Australia and the SMH:

  • Darwin and Katherine have locked down for three days after the NT recorded three new cases, causing fears for the territory’s Indigenous population
  • NSW’s western region has recorded dozens of new cases amid the state’s 478 total cases yesterday. Aboriginal children make up 40% of the total cases in NSW’s west. New rules restricting exercise and shopping came into force state-wide
  • Eight more people have died in NSW after contracting COVID, a number described as “disturbingly high” by Premier Gladys Berejiklian
  • Victoria’s lockdown has been extended until September 2, while the state now has a 9pm curfew. Outdoor playgrounds and skate parks are closed, and construction will be restricted. There were 22 new cases
  • The ACT has extended its lockdown by two weeks after 19 new cases were recorded yesterday
  • Queensland tightened border controls with NSW, stipulating that essential workers must be vaccinated to cross over — though some Queensland teachers who live on the NSW side say it means they can no longer go to work.

TAKE THEM TO THE MATT

NSW Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean will reportedly target his Coalition colleagues in an address to a climate forum, Guardian Australia reports. Several outlets got a copy of the speech Kean will give at the Better Futures Forum today. In it, Kean says leaders need to “get on with it, or get out of the way”, continuing that “saying it is up to others to come up with a plan is a cop-out” — an apparent reference to Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce’s comments last week that the government doesn’t make climate plans, as The New Daily reports. Kean goes on to say Australians need to “send a message to all leaders in every part of our society” and that it is up to each person to exercise responsibility “when we decide how to vote at the ballot box”.

It’s the second time Kean has lashed out at his own party — back in 2019, which feels like a hundred years ago, Kean said the ferocity of Australia’s horror bushfires was a direct result of worsening global warming. Then-deputy PM Michael McCormack criticised the link as the “ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies”, as ABC reports. At least 33 people were killed and three billion animals were killed or harmed in Australia’s 2019-2020 bushfire season, which scorched a land size equivalent to England, as BBC reported.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Cripes, there is a lot of news swirling at the moment. If you’re clenching your jaw, relax it. Let your shoulders fall to a more comfortable place. Breathe in and out. And let me ask you a question — how many molecules of Julius Caesar’s last breath did you just breathe in?

That’s the question that has troubled Nick Earls for decades now. The author heard the question in his first-year physics class — the idea is that molecules never disappear, they just circulate — making Caesar’s last exhale “a breath forever linked to a pivot of history”. After years of contemplation, he said the answer to the question isn’t really important. What is important is the connections we have: to each other, to events, and to actions and the actions of others. “Our planet seems big, but it’s not. Nothing we inhale goes away when we exhale it. Our breaths, like Caesar’s, turn over and over,” he says. “We and the molecules we eat and breathe and share are far more tightly enmeshed than we realise. We really are all in this together, for better or worse. And our own individual actions really will add up to decide which of those it will be.”

Hope you make the best of it today, folks.

If you’re feeling chatty, drop me a line, tell me about something that’s making you marvel at the world — [email protected]

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Does anyone know whether the Taliban will sign up to net zero?

Matthew Canavan

In an incredible display of tone-deafness, the Nationals senator used the collapse of Afghanistan amid a Taliban siege to express his belief in the futility of Australia committing to lower greenhouse gas emissions, during a week of wildfires in Greece, Spain, Italy, parts of the US, Canada, and flooding in Turkey, Japan and in Texas. Among those who rebuked Canavan were his own leader, Barnaby Joyce, and colleague Michael McCormack, the latter of whom described the tweet as “unworthy of a member of the Australian parliament”.

CRIKEY RECAP

Afghanistan isn’t Morrison’s war, but he has a responsibility to fix Howard’s mess

“A proper accounting of our 20-year role in Afghanistan by Morrison wouldn’t involve some bureaucratic pabulum about lifting capacity but an acknowledgement of the profound bungling that marked Australia’s role in the Iraq and Afghanistan interventions and our willingness to let reflexive loyalty to the Bush administration’s corporation-funded military agenda overshadow our own security.

“It would recognise the failure of our military to prevent a culture of atrocities developing among our forces, and the lack of justice for its victims, and an evident reluctance to provide sanctuary for those who risked so much — indeed, everything — to help our soldiers.”


Berejiklian backflips on evidence-based restrictions without addressing the key causes of transmission

“NSW’s lockdown was started by a limo driver transporting airline workers who caught COVID-19 and transmitted it across the eastern suburbs. The virus soon spread across the state with limited restrictions on people leaving Greater Sydney, but no lockdown. Gladys Berejiklian’s decision to leave the state open was supported by Prime Minister Scott Morrison ….

“Short, sharp lockdowns have time and time again shown to be key in limiting transmission. While there’s nothing that can be done about that now, there’s little evidence to show these extra restrictions will do much. Instead, the focus needs to be placed on rule-breakers through the ring of steel, making essential workplaces safer, and ensuring everyone understands the rules, with better supports in place for those missing out on work.”


When incels kill because of their extremist ideology it’s terrorism, plain and simple

“On Friday, a 22-year-old man shot dead his mother before leaving their family home to start shooting at people in nearby parkland. He killed three-year-old Sophie, her father, two other adults, and then himself.  Despite the killer’s history of involvement in the incel scene, police said the mass shooting was not terror related. It is exceedingly difficult to imagine a situation in which an Islamic man who was known to have sympathised with radical ideologies before going on a fatal rampage would not have been seen as an act of terror.

“Incels — involuntary celibates — believe that it is a human right to have sex with women (and yes, they’re overwhelmingly male and hetero). They believe feminism has robbed them of that right, and man-oh-man, are they pissed about it. Violently pissed. These angry misogynists have turned self-pity into a hate-filled ideology.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Barcelona president Joan Laporta reveals club debt stands at £1.15b (BBC)

A week into Taliban rule, one city’s glimpse of what the future may hold (The New York Times)

Australian sharemarket slides lower from last week’s record-breaking finish (The Australian) ($)

Carlton star Eddie Betts announces AFL retirement after 17-season career (ABC)

Carsales.com.au to launch completely online vehicle marketplace (The Australian) ($)

‘I’m the only surgeon’: after Haiti quake, thousands seek scarce care (The New York Times)

Lava, ash stream from Indonesian volcano (The New Daily)

Fuel shortages leave Lebanese hospitals in ‘critical condition’ (Al Jazeera)

Paralympic Games organisers confirm fans to be excluded from most venues (The New Daily)

Tesla’s autopilot system to be probed by US auto safety regulator (The Wall Street Journal)

The rise of the COVID midlife crisis (The New Yorker)

THE COMMENTARIAT

As the Taliban returns, 20 years of progress for women looks set to disappear overnightAzadah Raz Mohammad, Jenna Sapiano (The Conversation): “Officially, Taliban leaders have said they want to grant women’s rights “according to Islam”. But this has been met with great scepticism, including by women leaders in Afghanistan. Indeed, the Taliban has given every indication they will reimpose their repressive regime. In July, the United Nations reported the number of women and girls killed and injured in the first six months of the year nearly doubled compared to the same period the year before.

“In the areas again under Taliban control, girls have been banned from school and their freedom of movement restricted. There have also been reports of forced marriages. Women are putting burqas back on and speak of destroying evidence of their education and life outside the home to protect themselves from the Taliban … Women and girls are pleading for help as the Taliban advance. We hope the world will listen.”

Salute to our comrades in the Afghan fightMarcus Thompson (The Australian) ($): “The other group of people on my mind is our veterans. Having lost 41 young Australians in Afghanistan, with hundreds more wounded or maimed, and countless others suffering psychological injuries, this is a particularly tough time for veterans. It is simply not possible to see the footage of Taliban fighters occupying the presidential palace in Kabul and not feel some sense of forlorn regret.

“More than 26,000 Australian service men and women served in Afghanistan. That’s more than 26,000 Australian families that were affected by almost 20 years of deployments to Afghanistan, on top of deployments to East Timor and Iraq. In many respects, it’s harder for the families at home than it is for the deployed personnel. Long absences, infrequent contact, negative news stories and constant uncertainty regarding the wellbeing of their deployed loved one can take a significant toll. Many of those families were destroyed as a result.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Australia

  • Architect of the Paris agreement and former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon will speak at the Better Futures Forum joined by the deputy to the US Special Envoy on Climate Jonathan Pershing and former Irish president and UN Climate Envoy Mary Robinson.

  • The Victoria Law Foundation will host a webinar on the challenges of the national Migrant and Refugee Women Safety and Security Study.

  • Chair of Surfing Australia Layne Beachley and MP Zali Stegall will speak at the first of three virtual meetings to stop a proposal to drill for offshore oil and gas between Manly and Newcastle.

  • Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy joins Essential Media’s Pete Lewis to discuss the fortnight in political news.

Ngunnawal Country (also known as Canberra)

  • Australian Defence Force Academy will host a panel discussion on space security in the Asia-Pacific region at the Australian National University.

Kaurna Country (also known as Adelaide)

  • A community information session will discuss a new desalination plant project on Kangaroo Island.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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