FirstFT: Last US troops leave Afghanistan

Afghanistan updates

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The US commander responsible for troops in Afghanistan announced the final American withdrawal from the country, wrapping its massive airlift from Kabul’s airport and bringing its involvement in the 20-year war to a formal end.

General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of US central command, announced the end of the evacuation operation at a Pentagon news conference on Monday afternoon, which coincided with Tuesday morning in Kabul — the deadline date President Joe Biden had set for a full withdrawal.

“I’m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan,” McKenzie said at a Pentagon briefing, adding that the last military plane had left Kabul airport with the US ambassador aboard.

The US had dramatically scaled back its evacuation mission in Afghanistan in the days leading up the end of the operation, with the number of civilians being airlifted out of Kabul falling sharply on Monday.

The final push to conclude the evacuation took place against the backdrop of an increasingly dangerous security situation in Kabul, where the airport has been the target of a successful suicide bombing and unsuccessful rocket attacks.

As the international community works to keep Kabul airport open, the Taliban’s refusal to allow a foreign security presence at the transport hub is thwarting those efforts, a senior Qatari official said.

Five more stories in the news

1. Oil companies on US Gulf coast survey Ida’s damage Hurricane Ida slammed into the heart of the US energy industry, but the response in fuel markets was muted yesterday as companies began to determine the extent of the damage. More than 1m customers across Louisiana remained without power, according to PowerOutage. US.

Fallen power lines in Metairie, Louisiana, on Monday. The utility Entergy said services could take weeks to return to normal © AP

2. Porsche targets Asia for first factory outside Europe The opening of a new factory in Malaysia will be a marked departure from the 90-year-old luxury brand’s practice of building its cars close to its storied home in Stuttgart, Germany. Currently, Malaysia’s Porsche enthusiasts pay almost double for imported sports vehicles owing to high tariffs and taxes.

3. Nuclear watchdog sounds alarm over North Korean reactor The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency has warned that North Korea appears to have restarted a critical reactor at its biggest nuclear materials complex. The watchdog said there had been “indications consistent with the operation” of the nuclear reactor at Yongbyon for the first time since December 2018.

4. Chinese tech groups hit by limits to children’s online gaming Chinese children will only be allowed to play video games for one hour on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in fresh curbs set to hit gaming providers such as NetEase and Tencent.

5. Meituan chief adopts Xi’s wealth redistribution rhetoric Wang Xing, the founder and chief executive of the food delivery service, told investors that “common prosperity” was “built into the genes” of his company, while vowing to overhaul his company’s practices amid an increasing regulatory crackdown. President Xi Jinping used the same phrase in a speech earlier this month.

Coronavirus digest

  • The EU should reinstate restrictions on US travellers because of rising coronavirus infections and hospitalisations, ministers warned.

  • Singapore has fully vaccinated 80 per cent of its population against Covid-19, paving the way for economic reopening in the city-state.

  • Virgin Australia revealed plans to become the country’s second airline to require vaccination of all its staff, as the Covid-19 outbreak worsened.

  • Carnival Corporation failed to move to protect cruise passengers last year despite warnings from a ship doctor about a “concerning” outbreak, according to court filings.

  • The summer resurgence of cases has had little impact on the eurozone’s recovery, according to data that suggested consumers were driving a rebound.

Read the latest on our coronavirus live blog.

Line chart of number of cases ('000s, rolling seven-day sum) showing Covid surged in the eurozone again this summer

The day ahead

Economic data In Asia, India reports monthly GDP figures and Japan will release its monthly employment rate and industrial production figures. There is also a flood of economic data from the eurozone this week starting with inflation figures today.

24th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales This year’s anniversary takes on more significance given the damning report into the BBC’s 1995 Panorama interview with the late Princess of Wales is still relatively fresh and that Spencer, a much trailed film about her marriage to Prince Charles, will be screened this week at the Venice Film Festival.

Jury selection begins in Elizabeth Holmes trial The founder and chief executive of the failed blood-testing company Theranos is set to go to trial this week after months of delays. Jury selection begins today and the trial is expected to go on for months. (CNN)

Correction: In yesterday’s edition we noted that US President Joe Biden would host Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday. The meeting was delayed until Wednesday.

What else we’re reading

George Soros: Investors in Xi’s China face a rude awakening President Xi Jinping has collided with economic reality. To protect American investors, the billionaire investor and philanthropist called for Congress to pass a bill requiring that asset managers invest only in companies where governance structures are transparent and aligned with stakeholders.

Big Four rush to join the ESG bandwagon The Big Four accounting firms are lining up investment strategies to tap the sustainability surge as trillions of dollars flow into environmental, social and government funds. But some partners have warned that the firms could face a backlash if they fail to live up to the standards they promote.

Chart showings soaring sustainable funds sales putting spotlight on ESG issues

CDU reels as the Merkel era ends Not only has support for the Germany’s Christian Democrats slumped to 22 per cent, according to a recent poll, but data released in the ensuing days suggested the left-of-centre Social Democrats had pulled ahead. If CDU’s luck doesn’t turn, Angela Merkel’s party could be heading for the worst election result in its history.

Saudi Arabia’s climate plans struggle to take off When Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced Saudi Arabia’s “green initiative” he did so with the type of eye-catching pledge that has come to characterise the young royal’s grandiose plans to modernise the kingdom. But sceptics question whether his rhetoric will be matched with tangible action.

Frictions arise between Wall Street and private equity clients “They are a complete pain in the ass,” lamented one M&A managing director, referring to his private equity clients. “Financial sponsors”, as bankers refer to them, prove exceptionally demanding. Often a senior banker is at the mercy of a 30-year-old PE vice-president who requests, at all hours, tedious financial analysis or due diligence for immediate reply.

Sleep gadgets

In 1968 Charles Hall invented the modern waterbed. More than five decades later his nephew Todd Youngblood has developed a new cooling system not unrelated to Hall’s innovation. That is one of four new gadgets to help you get a good night’s sleep.

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