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TOPIC: afghanistan

Green Or Gone

Confronting Climate Change And The Taliban In Afghanistan

Amid a severe drought, Afghan scientists are asking the international community to engage with the brutal regime.

This past December, a fleet of colorful swan-shaped boats lined the muddy banks of Qargha Lake, a reservoir on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan. The boats’ owner, 50-year-old Shah Maqsoud Habibi, said his business has vanished, along with much of the lake, a once popular weekend destination for war weary Afghans.

Over the past few years, a series of droughts have gripped the country, causing reservoirs and other water bodies to dry up. “If there is no water, there is no business for me, and without work, I cannot feed my family,” said Habibi.

Local residents share similar concerns. “I have lived here for 16 years, and this is the first time I am seeing the lake empty,” said 21-year-old Rashid Samim. For two years, he hasn’t been able to properly water his apple and cherry orchards or his modest potato farm, leading to smaller yields.

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Ukraine Denies Pipe Sabotage, Georgia Protests, Holi Kickoff

👋 Hoi!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Ukraine responds to a report about its involvement in the Nord Stream gas pipe sabotage in November, protests over press freedom rock Georgia's capital Tbilisi and the beginning of Holi celebrations coincide with International Women’s Day. Meanwhile, Karl De Meyer in French daily Les Echos takes us on a trip to Umeå, Sweden, a city where urbanism and feminism are words that go together well.

[*Dutch]

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Smaller Allies Matter: Afghanistan Offers Hard Lessons For Ukraine's Future

Despite controversies at home, Nordic countries were heavily involved in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. As the Ukraine war grinds on, lessons from that conflict are more relevant than ever.

-Analysis-

HELSINKI — In May 2021, the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan after 20 years of international presence, astronomical sums of development aid and casualties on all warring sides.

As Kabul fell, a chaotic evacuation prompted comparisons to the fall of Saigon — and most of the attention was on the U.S., which had led the original war to unseat the Taliban after 9/11 and remained by far the largest foreign force on the ground. Yet, the fall of Kabul was also a tumultuous and troubling experience for a number of other smaller foreign countries who had been presented for years in Afghanistan.

In an interview at the time, Antti Kaikkonen, the Finnish Minister of Defense, tried to explain what went wrong during the evacuation.

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“Originally we anticipated that the smaller countries would withdraw before the Americans. Then it became clear that getting people to the airport had become more difficult," Kaikkonen said. "So we decided last night to bring home our last soldiers who were helping with the evacuation.”

During the 20-year-long Afghan war, the foreign troop presence included many countries:Finland committed around 2,500 soldiers,Sweden 8,000,Denmark 12,000 and Norway 9,000. And in the nearly two years since the end of the war, Finland,Belgium and theNetherlands have commissioned investigations into their engagements in Afghanistan.

As the number of fragile or failed states around the world increases, it’s important to understand how to best organize international development aid and the security of such countries. Twenty years of international engagement in Afghanistan offers valuable lessons.

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This Happened—December 23: The Soviets Invade Afghanistan

On this day in 1979, the Soviet Union intervened in support of the Afghan communist government in its conflict with anti-communist Muslim guerrillas during the Afghan War, after Afghanistan’s centrist government was overthrown by left-wing military officers led by Nur Mohammad Taraki.

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In The News
Emma Albright, Bertrand Hauger, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Laure Gautherin

Jiang Zemin Dies, New COVID Clashes In China, World Heritage Baguette

👋 Mari mari!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where former Chinese President Jiang Zemin dies at age 96, Oath Keepers leaders are found guilty of sedition in the U.S. Capitol riots, and a French staple food earns its spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list. And just as fresh anti-lockdown clashes erupt in southern China, an article from The Initium traces the origins of the protests and asks where they will go from here.

[*Mapuche, Chile and Argentina]

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Society
Elaine Unterhalter

With Taliban Back In Power, Brave Afghan Girls Again Risk Everything For An Education

Certain teachers and female students face extraordinary risks in clandestine schools for girls, recalling similar secret education operations when the Taliban were in charge before 9/11.

In August 2021 the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, and since then secondary education for girls in the country has been banned. However, there have been reports of clandestine girls’ schools operating despite the ban. Teenage girls are reportedly taking extraordinary risks to attend lessons. Their teachers bravely share knowledge, even if they do not have extensive experience or the backup of an education system.

Education for girls was also banned during the previous era of Taliban rule in Afghanistan (1996-2001). In this period, too, girls attended secret schools.

Not much was known about these schools during Taliban rule. A 1997 report noted that the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan supported 125 girls’ schools and 87 co-education primary schools and home schools. An article in the Guardian in July 2001 stated that aid agencies had estimated 45,000 children were attending secret schools.

After the defeat of the Taliban in 2001, the educational work of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), which they carried out during Taliban rule, was much documented.

Before 9/11, there was very limited international knowledge of these secret schools for girls. But after 9/11, the misogynistic actions of the Taliban regarding women’s rights and girls’ education became a pillar of the argument for the U.S. War against Terror.

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In The News
Lisa Berdet, Chloé Touchard, Lila Paulou and Bertrand Hauger

IAEA To Zaporizhzhia, Pakistan Flood Toll, Bogota Peace Concert

👋 Halò!*

Welcome to Monday, where a team of UN inspectors is traveling to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant as the area is hit by new shelling, tolls rise in Pakistan floods and Bogota breaks the record for biggest peace concert. Meanwhile, Les Echos Lucie Robequain takes us to Transnistria, a part of Moldova that’s like a bit of USSR frozen in time.

[*Scottish Gaelic]

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Geopolitics
Carolina Drüten

How China Is Doing Business With The Taliban

After withdrawing from Afghanistan, the U.S. left a power vacuum. The Taliban regime is officially isolated internationally, but the country has vast mineral resources — on which Beijing is keeping a close eye.

KABUL — An hour's drive outside Kabul, at the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountain range, three men are drilling for water. It is day three of the construction work, and they are laying the foundation stone for a 130-hectare industrial park. They are being paid with Chinese money. The company China Town Kabul wants to use the industrial park to attract factories from the People's Republic to Afghanistan. The project has been approved by the Taliban, who have been in power in Afghanistan for a year.

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In The News
Lisa Berdet, Chloé Touchard, Lila Paulou and Bertrand Hauger

Ukraine Refutes Dugina Accusations, UK Migrants Record, Jupiter’s Auroras

👋 Dobrý deň!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Ukrainian ridicule Russian accusations that it is behind the murder Darya Dugina last week, the UK sees a record daily number of migrants reaching its shores, and the James Webb Telescope wows us again. Meanwhile, Hong-Kong-based outlet The Initium looks at the weight of new religious groups in Japan in the wake of Shinzo Abe’s assassination by a member of the Unification Church.

[*Slovak]

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In The News
Lisa Berdet, Chloé Touchard, Lila Paulou and Bertrand Hauger

Nikopol Shelling, Afghan Floods, 4-Year-Old Runaway

👋 안녕하세요!*

Welcome to Monday, where Ukraine warns of renewed shelling in Nikopol near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, at least 20 die in flash floods in Afghanistan, and a four-year-old girl thinks it’s never too early for some Christmas shopping. In the meantime, Spanish-language Pika Magazine looks at how rural Spain is fighting mass exodus by turning small towns into safe spaces for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

[*Annyeong haseyo, Korean]

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Rwanda
Tazreena Sajjad*

How Rich Western Countries Pay To Send Refugees Away

Western countries are shipping refugees to poorer nations in exchange for cash.

The UK government was due to begin its first deportation flight to remove asylum-seekers to the East African country of Rwanda on June 14, 2022, exactly two months after signing the UK-Rwanda agreement. The asylum-seekers were from several war-torn and politically unstable countries, including Syria, Sudan and Iran.

Each year, thousands of people – many fleeing repressive governments or poverty – attempt to cross the English Channel in fragile boats in the hope of starting a new life in the UK.

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In The News
Lisa Berdet, Chloé Touchard, Lila Paulou and Bertrand Hauger

All Eyes On Zaporizhzhia, 21 Killed In Kabul Mosque Blast, Surfin’ Venice

👋 Molo!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Guterres and Erdogan meet with Zelensky to address the situation at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, a blast at a Kabul mosque kills at least, and surf’s up in Venice, much to the mayor’s chagrin. Meanwhile, Clarín visits an old friend: that botched restoration of a Christ mural, still a tourist hit 10 years on.

[*Xhosa, South Africa]

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