Published:

UK races to rescue thousands from Afghanistan…

“Britain is scrambling to airlift more than 4,000 UK nationals and Afghan citizens out of the country by the end of the week after the Taliban said locals would be barred from travelling to the airport. President Biden confirmed last night that he was not planning to extend his August 31 deadline for the US withdrawal despite lobbying from Boris Johnson and other European leaders. The decision means the last British evacuation flight is expected to leave tomorrow or Friday to ensure there is time for the 1,000 British soldiers in Kabul to get themselves out. The government is attempting to evacuate 1,250 British citizens and other people from recognised “safe” countries, along with a further 2,500 Afghans who have supported British forces over the past 20 years, including interpreters.” – The Times

  • Only foreigners can leave, say Taliban as they block Kabul airport – The Times
  • Taliban’s frozen assets hinge on safe passage, says Johnson – The Times
  • Banks told to reopen but Afghans fear ruin awaits – The Times
  • Prime Minister promises to unlock hundreds of millions if new Afghan regime will agree to list of demands – Daily Mail
  • Defence Secretary offers hope on Kabul airlift for shelter staff and animals – Daily Telegraph
  • UK troops warn of desperate Afghans overrunning Kabul airport – Daily Telegraph

… as Biden rejects calls to extend Afghanistan deadline

“Joe Biden on Tuesday night rejected calls to delay his August 31 exit date from Afghanistan, leaving Boris Johnson and fellow world leaders to ask the Taliban to let people go safely after troops withdraw. In a virtual conference call with G7 leaders on Tuesday, the president made it clear that the US was committed to hitting its deadline of pulling out troops by Tuesday, citing heightened security threats. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday night, Mr Biden said: “I’m mindful of the increasing risk I’ve been briefed on and the need to factor those risks in. They’re real… starting with the acute and growing risk of an attack by a terrorist group known as ISIS-K, an ISIS affiliate which is a sworn enemy of the Taliban.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Biden is said to have dismissed the request ‘point blank’, regarding idea of an extension as a ‘non-runner’ – Daily Mail
  • Kabul evacuations under growing terrorist threat, says Biden – The Times
  • Biden sends CIA boss for secret talks with Taliban leader – The Times
  • Lion of Panjshir’s son Ahmad Massoud vows to fight on against Taliban in Afghanistan – The Times

Analysis:

>Today:

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: History may just vindicate Biden over Afghanistan

“It is not easy to defend anything about Joe Biden’s tragically-bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan, nor to argue that the long-term damage to both America’s strategic interests and Western credibility is probably negligible. But I will take a stab. One thing you learn covering foreign affairs for more than 40 years is that quick judgments based on emotional scenes invariably lead to false geopolitical conclusions. The President told White House reporters on Sunday night that “history” would vindicate his decision to wind back decades of imperial overstretch, cutting American losses in an intractable corner of the world, and ending a 20-year war that has diverted $2 trillion of taxpayer money from more pressing strategic priorities. He also stated that China and Russia will view the US withdrawal with some concern, belying the reflexive Schadenfreude of their press.” – Daily Telegraph

More comment:

Food shortages worst I have seen, says supermarket chief

“Grocery shoppers face less choice as the boss of one of Britain’s biggest supermarket chains said food shortages were the worst he has known. Steve Murrells, chief executive of the Co-operative Group, said it was reducing some ranges as the industry’s ability to get food to shops was hit by post-Brexit migration rules and Covid-19. “The shortages are at a worse level than at any time I have seen,” he said. Shops and fast-food restaurants are struggling for stock amid labour shortages, with a lack of fruit pickers and meat processors as well as HGV drivers and other roles.” – The Times

Coronavirus 1) Schools told to stay open, scrap bubbles and keep testing pupils for Covid

“Schools will be expected to introduce facemasks or testing for all pupils rather than being allowed to close or send pupils home. From the start of term they will work with public health officials, who will be told to ensure that schools are not “overzealous” if there are outbreaks. The Department for Education suggested yesterday that schools should strive for a return to normality, with plays, sport and musical performances, and the scrapping of bubbles. But head teachers predict that infections will soar and have criticised “confusing” guidance issued by the government that relies on schools knowing who has been in contact with whom, even though they are no longer supposed to track and trace children.” – The Times

  • Lockdown stress linked to sharp rise in young smokers – The Times

Coronavirus 2) Tenth of care home staff are yet to have first vaccine dose

“A tenth of care home staff have not yet had their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, three weeks before the deadline imposed by the government, according to new analysis. More than 46,500 staff in older adult care homes in England have yet to receive a single jab, according to NHS data. Some 89,400 — or 19 per cent — have yet to receive two doses. The Department for Health and Social Care has urged all care home staff to have their first Covid-19 jab by September 16 so that they are fully vaccinated by November 11. From then, they will no longer be able to work in care homes if they are not double-jabbed, unless they are exempt. The latest NHS vaccination data shows that care homes in Westminster have the lowest staff take-up, with only 64 per cent double-jabbed.” – The Times

Analysis:

  • ‘This country should be rewarding care workers, not showing them the door’ – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 3) Two fifths of people with poor immunity have little or no antibodies after jabs

“The protection offered to older people and healthcare workers by Covid-19 jabs could be as low as 50 per cent by winter, a leading scientist has warned, after a finding that protection from two doses wanes “even within six months”. Professor Tim Spector, lead scientist on the Zoe Covid study app, said the results meant that a plan for vaccine boosters was urgent. The latest analysis from Zoe, drawing on test results from 1.2 million app users, suggested that the Pfizer vaccine offered 88 per cent protection against infection a month after the second dose but that this fell to 74 per cent five to six months later. For the AstraZeneca vaccine, protection fell from 77 per cent a month after the second dose to 67 per cent four to five months later.” – The Times

  • Doubts grow over the future of AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

>Today:

Migrants celebrate beach landing after crossings hit record

“Migrants returned to the beaches of Kent yesterday, disembarking in front of surprised holidaymakers after figures showed a record number of arrivals over the weekend. On Saturday 828 people were rescued or intercepted during the 21-mile journey across the Channel. The previous daily high was 592 arrivals, recorded on August 12. Rough seas are thought to have prevented any migrants arriving on Sunday or Monday. Video recorded yesterday showed families at Broadstairs in Kent offering food to members of a group of 20 people who had just made landfall. Sally Jones Rowell and her daughter Lydia Jones, 13, were at their beach hut and the teenager rushed out to offer them snacks and drinks. “It was mainly young men and a very expensive boat. A few young children,” Jones Rowell said. “Most of them ran off in every direction.” – The Times

  • Patel appoints former counter-terror police chief to help lead borders crackdown – Daily Telegraph

US investigation into Chinese lab leak proves inconclusive

“An investigation by US spy agencies into the origin of the coronavirus ordered by President Biden has proven inconclusive about whether it leaked from a Chinese laboratory or jumped from animals to humans, it was reported last night. Biden received the classified report yesterday after a 90-day assessment following growing interest in whether the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in central China rather than the hypothesis that it spread from a meat market. US intelligence was reportedly unable to reach a conclusion because of a lack of transparency and cooperation by the Chinese authorities, which have denied the lab leak theory.” – The Times

Extinction Rebellion sets sights on City of London as it decries ‘infinite growth’

“Extinction Rebellion protesters brought Westminster to a standstill yesterday with demonstrations outside parliament as activists prepare to shift their focus to the City of London next week. Dozens of people stopped traffic by lying on roads around Parliament Street and Whitehall in central London on the second day of the group’s planned fortnight of protests. Members of the organisation’s Cymru branch staged the demonstrations to illustrate the deaths linked to climate change. Protesters were draped in white sheets with causes of death including famine, drought, flood and wildfire written on them.” – The Times

Comment:

News in brief: