Top of The World — our morning news roundup written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.
While the pace has quickened as troops and diplomatic reinforcements have been rushed to Kabul, tens of thousands of people remain stuck in Afghanistan, desperate to be evacuated following the Taliban’s takeover. The sluggish, chaotic process at the airport in the capital comes as reports of targeted killings by the Taliban mounted Friday, fueling fears the militant group will return Afghanistan to a repressive rule. In the US, President Joe Biden will speak on Friday as he faces mounting criticism over the troubled evacuation of Americans and Afghans who risked their lives by working for the US during the two decades of war.
With the Biden administration struggling under a mountain of criticism over the crisis in Afghanistan, Vice President Kamala Harris’ once low-risk trip to Asia has taken on new importance as she will attempt to reassure allies of American credibility. Harris is scheduled to leave for Singapore on Friday and will also make a stop in Vietnam. Officials are using the trip to help convince allies of US resolve and competence as the region grapples with the rise of a more assertive China.
Health officials in Australia are warning that major cities like Sydney and Melbourne may be losing control of a COVID-19 outbreak fueled by the more contagious delta variant. A lockdown in Sydney has now been extended through September as the country works to step up its vaccination campaign after a sluggish rollout. Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, Malaysia announced plans to loosen up COVID-19 restrictions for those fully vaccinated Friday despite facing a growing daily infection rate. And officials in Thailand say the country has now passed 1 million recorded COVID-19 infections.
Days after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, many Afghans who worked for the US are now concerned that their paper documents — attesting to how they helped — could essentially be death sentences if the Taliban were to find them.
But the fear doesn't stop with paper documents. There are also US military biometric devices, which are high-tech tools that contain sensitive data, like iris scans and fingerprints, tools to distinguish friend from possible enemy, that are in the hands of the Taliban.
A tech scandal is unfolding in Berlin, involving Germany's ruling Christian Democratic Union party and a young IT security researcher named Lilth Wittmann, who uncovered a major vulnerability in a campaign app.
Polish javelin thrower Maria Andrejczyk wanted to help an 8-month-old baby who was in need of an expensive life-saving surgery. In a heartwarming act of generosity, Andrejczyk decided to auction off her Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medal. Żabka, a Polish supermarket chain, stepped in and won the auction with a bid of $125,000 — enough money to put the fundraising effort over the top for the surgery to proceed. Not only that, Żabka then decided to let Andrejczyk keep her medal, saying in a statement that the company was "moved by the beautiful and extremely noble gesture."
Taliban spokesmen have said they'll be more accommodating toward journalists than in previous years, but Ayesha Tanzeem, the Afghanistan Pakistan bureau chief for Voice of America, is wary. And, Khalida Popal says she founded the Afghan women's football team in 2007 as an act of defiance against the Taliban. Now in exile, she is fielding calls from her former teammates who fear for their lives. Also, Olympic athletes may have left the Games, but the athletes’ village in Tokyo is back in use, currently filling up with 4,000 Paralympian athletes, ready to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.