Monday, 23 August 2021: Tony Blair criticises Afghanistan withdrawal, Austria won’t take in any more Afghan refugees, Löfven steps down as Sweden’s prime minister


Tony Blair criticises Afghanistan withdrawal: The US withdrawal from Afghanistan was wrong and based on an „imbecilic“ slogan, former PM Tony Blair has said. Blair, the British prime minister who deployed troops to Afghanistan 20 years ago after the 9/11 attacks, says the US decision to withdraw from the country has “every Jihadist group round the world cheering.” In a lengthy essay posted on his website late Saturday, the former Labour Party leader said the sudden and chaotic pullout that allowed the Taliban to reclaim power risked undermining everything that had been achieved in Afghanistan over the past two decades, including advances in living standards and the education of girls. Speaking to broadcasters, the former Labour leader shared concerns, not only for the Afghan people who he said stood to lose out, but also for the security of Western countries.,

Raab faces fresh calls to resign over claims he ’nobbled‘ PM to stay on holiday: Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is facing new calls to quit after claims that he defied a call to return from his luxury holiday in Crete to deal with the Afghanistan crisis and stayed for two more days. It is reported that Raab was told by a senior Downing Street official to return to London immediately on Friday 13 August as the Taliban advanced on Kabul. But it is claimed he „nobbled“ Prime Minister Boris Johnson and was assured by the prime minister that he could remain at his five-star beach holiday until Sunday and eventually returned in the early hours of Monday morning.

UK launches first countrywide COVID antibody survey: The UK is starting a countrywide antibody surveillance exercise, the country’s Department of Health and Social Care announced Sunday. Up to 8,000 volunteers per day will be sent home testing kits for COVID-19 antibodies by the UK Health Security Agency. Antibody tests can show who may have had a COVID infection in the past. Antibodies can also develop after receiving the Covid vaccine.

Afghanistan: Johnson to urge Biden to keep US troops at Kabul airport after 31 August
COVID-19: Dozens of Covid travel test companies face removal from website due to ‘misleading prices’
NHS protective equipment: Labour says PPE orders must not go to Xinjiang firms that use forced workers


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Seven killed at Kabul airport: A panicked rush of people trying to enter Kabul’s international airport killed seven Afghan civilians in the crowds, the British military said Sunday, showing the danger still posed to those trying to flee the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. The United States has warned its citizens to avoid Kabul airport amid concerns about the potential for attacks by Afghanistan’s branch of Isis. National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday that the threat of Isis against the large mass of Americans and Afghans at the Kabul airport trying to evacuate Afghanistan is „real,“ adding that the US is placing „paramount priority“ on preventing any terrorist attack. The Pentagon announced that Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered US commercial airlines to provide planes to help speed up Afghanistan evacuation efforts. More than 25,000 people have been evacuated since the airlift began. Britain plans to push world leaders to consider new sanctions on the Taliban when the G7 meet on Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan, sources told Reuters.,,,,,

Taliban send hundreds of fighters to Panjshir Valley: The Taliban said on Sunday that hundreds of its fighters were heading to the Panjshir Valley, one of the few parts of Afghanistan not yet controlled by the group. The Panjshir has long had a reputation as a bastion of resistance – legendary military commander Ahmad Shah Massoud successfully defended it during the Soviet-Afghan War and the civil war with the Taliban up to his death in 2001. Massoud‘ son Ahmad Massoud is the leader of Afghanistan’s last major outpost of anti-Taliban resistance. He said on Sunday he hoped to hold peaceful talks with the Islamist movement that seized power in Kabul a week ago but that his forces were ready to fight.,,

Austria won’t take in any more Afghan refugees: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has ruled out taking in people fleeing Afghanistan, saying that it won’t happen during his chancellorship. Kurz told Austrian broadcaster Puls 24, in an interview published Sunday, that he was “clearly against the fact that we now voluntarily accept more people.“ Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer also said the goal should not be to bring „thousands and thousands“ of Afghans to Europe. He said this was not a solution and a very short-sighted and ideologically misguided policy that would be dangerous for Europe. He added the majority of people should be kept in the region. During a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pointed out that Turkey would not be able to bear the „additional burden“ of more Afghan refugees. He said Turkey had already taken in five million refugees.,,

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Israel launches airstrikes in Gaza: Israeli fighter jets struck Hamas sites in Gaza late on Saturday following clashes between Palestinians and border troops. Saturday’s violence erupted after hundreds of Palestinians took part in a demonstration organised by Gaza’s Hamas rulers to draw attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the territory. At least 24 Palestinians, including a 13-year-old, were injured by Israeli gunfire, according to the Gaza health ministry. An Israeli Border Police officer was shot and critically injured.,

Lebanon raises fuel prices by 66% as it tries to ease shortages
Myanmar: Military arrest two more journalists


We should not make the same mistakes as in 2015. We should not wait until people are at the EU’s external borders.
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson has called on EU countries to prepare for refugees from Afghanistan.


Löfven steps down as Sweden’s prime minister: Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said on Sunday that he will step down as prime minister and head of the Social Democratic party in November, after seven years in power. He explained that the decision had “matured for some time,” adding: „Everything has an end. I want to give my successor the very best conditions.” In July, Löfven had won a tight vote in parliament to be reappointed as prime minister only weeks after he was forced to resign following a no-confidence vote at the end of June. The no-confidence vote was a result of a clash over housing market policy that resulted in the loss of support from allies in the Left Party.,

Merkel warns Russia during Ukraine visit: After a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reinforced her vow to push for additional sanctions against Russia if the Kremlin uses the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline linking Russia to Germany as a „weapon.“ The $12-billion pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea is set to double Russian natural gas shipments to Germany, Europe’s largest economy. It avoids Ukraine, depriving Kiev of essential gas transit fees. Merkel met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, but the two leaders were unable to agree on a deal to extend gas transit across Ukraine after 2024. In Kyiv, Merkel also sought to move forward stalled peace efforts for eastern Ukraine. She advocated working to get a leaders’ meeting between Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France on the situation in eastern Ukraine, the first since late 2019.,,,

Attack on young man wearing a kippah in Cologne: An 18-year-old man wearing a Jewish kippah was seriously injured in a suspected anti-Semitic attack in Cologne. The man had been sitting in a park with an acquaintance. As they were leaving, another man in a group of people apparently insulted him with anti-Semitic language. The 18-year-old inquired about the reason and was then violently assaulted, a spokesman for investigators said. One person in the group also took the victim’s kippah off his head. The victim was seriously injured, sustaining a cheekbone fracture, and brought to hospital. The president of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, Charlotte Knobloch, called for harsh punishments for the perpetrators.,,

Joséphine Baker to enter French Panthéon of national heroes: Franco-American singer Josephine Baker will receive a burial at the Pantheon monument in Paris. The dancer and activist will become the first Black woman to be memorialised in France’s national necropolis in the centre of Paris. Only five women have so far been inducted into the Panthéon out of the 80 people honoured there. During World War II, Baker joined the French Resistance, collected information from German officials she met at parties and carried hidden messages to different countries. The Panthéon houses the remains of some of France’s most revered, including Victor Hugo, Marie Curie and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.,,

Covid protest in France, Portugal eases restrictions: Thousands marched Saturday in cities across France to protest the COVID-19 health pass that is now required to access restaurants and cafes, cultural venues, sports arenas and long-distance travel. For a sixth straight Saturday, opponents denounced what they see as a restriction of their freedom. Portugal has decided to loosen restrictions on the number of people allowed in restaurants and cultural venues two weeks earlier than planned, a government minister said on Friday, as the vaccination campaign moved faster than anticipated.,

Germany 1: Left party leader Wissler calls for continuation of development aid in Afghanistan
Germany 2: Merkel’s conservatives hit record low in poll as election nears
Switzerland: Vaccination opponent attacks politician
Greece: Despair on Euboea after pine forests burn
Czech Republic: Health care professions become fashionable


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Greece plans to name heatwaves in the same way as storms: Spurred on by this summer’s record temperatures, Greek scientists have begun discussing the need to name and rank heatwaves, better known for their invisibility, before rampant wildfires made the realities of the climate crisis increasingly stark. A preventative measure, the move would enable policymakers and affected populations to be more prepared for what are being described by experts as “silent killers.”


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