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Rouhani Chides West, Hong Kong Protests, The Who

Nepalese girls celebrate the beginning of the Dashain festival.
Nepalese girls celebrate the beginning of the Dashain festival.

All eyes will be on Westminster today, where the House of Commons will vote on what the British media are calling the “third Iraq war.” Members are expected to support the the anti-ISIS coalition with strikes in Iraq, though Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said these might be extended to Syria in the near future, The Guardian reports.

U.S. airplanes, meanwhile, continued to target ISIS-held oil refineries in northern Syria for a second day. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 140 militants and 13 civilians have been killed so far in the strikes.

EU anti-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove told the BBC that more than 3,000 Europeans were fighting with ISIS, while the FBI says it knows of 12 Americans that have joined the terrorist group. Director James Comey also said that they believed they had identified “Jihadi John,” the man with a British accent shown in the beheading videos.

More than 100 people were killed in Afghanistan as the Taliban stormed a district near the capital of Kabul after five days of fighting, Reuters reports. This comes just days after the country’s two presidential candidates agreed to end their feud and to form a national unity government.

“Today's anti-Westernism is a reaction to yesterday's racism," Iran President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday, using the occasion of the UN General Assembly to blame Western governments for the violent extremism that has taken root in the Middle East and created widespread instability.

The United States will soften its demands and is willing to meet Iran “close to half way” in the ongoing nuclear talks with Tehran, AP quotes two diplomats as saying. Under the new proposal, Washington would allow Iran to keep “nearly half” of its nuclear project untouched in exchange for more constraints on its potential development for nuclear weapons.

Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino has backed a plan that will pay Italian families 30 euros a day to host migrants waiting for asylum, as the country's immigration centers struggle to cope with the ever-soaring number of arrivals.

Hamas and Fatah, the two main Palestinian factions, agreed yesterday to place the civil administration of Gaza under the rule of a unity government led by the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, The Jerusalem Post reports. The agreement, reached after two days of reconciliation talks in Cairo, is a breakthrough in the bid to ease the Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the Gaza Strip and start rebuilding after this summer’s 50-day Israeli offensive, which left over 2,000 dead and 110,000 homeless. Meanwhile, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reports that in his speech at the UN General Assembly later today Abbas will launch a bid to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Close to 1,000 secondary school students joined a week-long protest led by pro-democracy university students in Hong Kong, AFP reports. Yesterday, some 2,000 protesters marched to the residence of Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying to speak to him directly. The civil disobedience campaign come one month after China announced that the candidates in the next local election in 2017 would first be approved by a committee. “The government is ignoring our voices, so I think that if we have so many secondary students boycotting the classes maybe then they will be willing to listen to us,” a young protester said.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un did not attend yesterday’s parliamentary session, the first time he has missed one since succeeding his father Kim Jong-il and coming to power almost three years ago, Bloomberg reports. The North Korean leader has not been seen in public since Sept. 3, and state media have acknowledged that he is suffering from “discomfort.”

Today is the 45th anniversary of the Beatles’ Abbey Road release, as auspicious a time as any for The Who to unveil a new song entitled “Be Lucky.” It’s the group’s first recording in eight years, which will appear in its 50th anniversary compilation to be released later this year. For those preferring Neil Young, the Canadian singer has posted multiple versions of an environmental protest song on his website.

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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.

Photo of Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Johannes Jauhiainen


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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