FirstFT: Biden defends Afghanistan withdrawal

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World updates

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Joe Biden put the blame for the chaos engulfing Kabul on the shoulders of the deposed Afghan government and its ineffectual security forces, saying the inability of US-backed authorities to fend off the Taliban advance proved he was right to withdraw American forces.

The US president spoke yesterday as the Pentagon struggled to restart flights from Kabul’s international airport after it was overrun by fleeing Afghans. At least seven people died in the turmoil.

As Afghans brace for life under strict Islamic rule, women in the country fear the civil liberties they have enjoyed over the past two decades will be reversed swiftly. 

The Taliban’s rapid rout of Afghan security forces has exposed failings in the US intelligence, policy and decision-making apparatus that officials and experts said would have far-reaching implications.

Destabilisation resulting from the Taliban takeover was felt internationally: Pakistan’s international bonds came under selling pressure and Uzbekistan’s debt weakening.

Officials in Islamabad did not hide their schadenfreude at the end of the 20-year US mission in Afghanistan. China has said it would respect the “choices” of the Afghan people, in the first sign that Beijing was ready to give cautious support to a Taliban-led government. (FT, AP)

  • Opinion: The fall of Kabul will end American influence in Afghanistan, probably for decades, writes Gideon Rachman. A mass international effort will be required to handle a refugee exodus, adds our editorial board.

Thank you to readers who sent your thoughts on the US drawdown from Afghanistan. Please continue to send your reactions to jennifer.creery@ft.com. We may feature a selection of your responses. — Jennifer

Five more stories in the news

1. Storm makes landfall in earthquake-hit Haiti Tropical Storm Grace reached Haiti yesterday and was expected to hit precisely the same part of the country still reeling from Saturday’s powerful earthquake, which killed more than 1,400 people and injured thousands.

A bulldozer removes debris at the site of at a collapsed hotel in Haiti two days after an earthquake struck the country
A bulldozer removes debris at the site of at a collapsed hotel in Haiti two days after an earthquake struck the country © AP

2. Glencore backs British battery start-up The mining group has acquired a stake in Britishvolt, the battery start-up behind ambitious plans for a gigafactory designed to equip the UK’s car industry for an electric future. As part of the agreement, Glencore will also supply the gigafactory with cobalt, a crucial raw material in electric batteries.

3. US investigates Tesla’s Autopilot Washington has launched a probe into crashes involving Tesla’s driverless technology, after being repeatedly urged to by an independent regulator that accused the electric carmaker of releasing unproven software on to public roads.

4. UK hydrogen energy push Taxpayers could subsidise the production of “low carbon” hydrogen so it is as cheap to buy as natural gas as ministers seek to persuade a range of sectors to switch from fossil fuels.

5. Private capital groups soar The largest listed US private capital companies have more than tripled in value since the depths of last year’s market sell-off, as investors benefited from hefty fees in the boom in unlisted assets.

Column chart of Combined market capitalisation ($bn) showing Shares in private capital firms have soared from Covid lows

Coronavirus digest

  • GlaxoSmithKline and CureVac’s second-generation Covid-19 vaccine induced a stronger immune response than the first, according to an animal study.

  • China’s economy sharply underperformed in July, with flooding and a Delta variant outbreak exacerbating concerns of stalling momentum.

  • The vaccine patents battle has intensified as the pharmaceutical industry and health officials locked horns over intellectual property waivers for jabs.

Cutting pay for remote workers is a risky move and will expose who has more power: employers or staff, writes Sarah O’Connor. Follow our live blog for the latest coronavirus news and sign up for our Coronavirus Business Update newsletter.

The day ahead

Earnings BHP releases annual results today. European food delivery group Just Eat Takeaway.com reports, as does Sea Group, south-east Asia’s most valuable listed company. See our full list of tech earnings for the week in our #techFT newsletter. Sign up here.

US retail sales A wave of coronavirus cases has prompted a renewed focus on how the pandemic is affecting consumer spending in the world’s biggest economy. A report today is expected to shed light on the situation.

Fed chair hosts town hall Investors will be watching Jay Powell for any hint of movement in monetary policy.

What else we’re reading and listening to

Lex in depth: Remittance fintechs herald payments revolution Fintech start-ups are finally getting traction in their mission to disrupt banking. And remittances, smaller cross-border payments between individuals, have been an excellent entry point. Investors and developing nations are taking advantage of the shake-up of the old oligopolies of banks and traditional money agents.

Convoluted legacy systems are ripe for disruption by app-based services
Convoluted legacy systems are ripe for disruption by app-based services

How not to handle a prize asset What’s an investment manager to do with an asset whose rate of growth is slowing and value is sure to decline? Those worth their salt would redeploy money and purchase different stocks lodged on the right side of progress. FC Barcelona chose to do the opposite, writes Michael Moritz, leading to Lionel Messi’s departure.

Insurers using AI to reshape the industry New technology is allowing insurers to produce individualised profiles of customer risk, but researchers worry that it could make it impossible for some people to find coverage. 

Mexico drug cartels target media in battle for territory Drug cartels, often acting in tandem with crooked cops and public officials, have cowed and killed journalists with impunity, turning Mexico into the most dangerous country for media workers in the western hemisphere.

The summer road trip that wasn’t Summer is for road trips: pavement, sunshine and junk food. But when Claire Bushey looks back at this summer, she will recall how a lack of electric charging infrastructure scuppered her plans for a no-emissions adventure in a loaned Mustang Mach-E.

Wellbeing and fitness

Lionel Barber on cycling Nothing beats taking to two wheels, writes the former FT editor. It’s like retreating into your own private world, always unforgettable, more so in the middle of a pandemic.

As Lionel Barber’s twin brother Stephen remarked, ‘Cycling is the only sport where you get paid back for what you put in’
As Lionel Barber’s twin brother Stephen remarked, ‘Cycling is the only sport where you get paid back for what you put in’ © Marco Kesseler

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