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Afghanistan, Tunisia To Issue Sovereign Bonds In Bitcoin While Also Liberating Afghan Girls From Taliban (#GotBitcoin)

Afghanistan and Tunisia are planning to issue sovereign bonds in bitcoin to fund infrastructural developments, reported Asia Times from IMF’s Springs Meetings summit. Afghanistan, Tunisia To Issue Sovereign Bonds In Bitcoin While Also Liberating Afghan Girls From Taliban (#GotBitcoin)


Afghanistan, Tunisia To Issue Sovereign Bonds In Bitcoin, Bright Future Ahead (#GotBitcoin?)

Khalil Sediq, the governor of the Central Bank of Afghanistan, confirmed that they were looking to utilize cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to raise around $5.8 billion. Sediq said they would pair bitcoin with a form of metal futures, such as lithium.

 

The move would make it easier for Afghanistan to expose its $3 trillion lithium sector to investors across the world. The metal’s short supply against its booming demand in the electric-vehicle industry would pose profitable opportunities for Afghanistan.


Sediq went on to explain the situation that led them to opt for bitcoin over other fiat assets. The governor blamed the post-war conflict scenario that raised Afghanistan’s risk of debt. It prompted the IMF to expose the country to severe restrictions on non-concessional financing. In layman terms, developed economies were less likely to invest in Afghanistan owing to its risks limited to or beyond a geopolitical crisis, as well as to a perceived lack of fiscal and debt discipline.

Crypto solutions, explained Sediq, could allow Afghanistan economy to access global markets. He stated that they would use hyperledger’s blockchain technology financial services platform to issue their sovereign bitcoin bonds.


Bitcoin Liberates Afghan Girls From Taliban AND Oppressive Sharia Laws

Afghanistan, Tunisia To Issue Sovereign Bonds In Bitcoin While Also Liberating Afghan Girls From Taliban (#GotBitcoin)  

Afghan women are rocking the boat for their social and financial freedoms, and their opponents wouldn’t even know it, thanks to an organisation that pays them to exercise those rights – in bitcoin.

Women’s Annex Foundation (WAF) encourages girls to think independently and discerningly through blog writing, software development, video production and social media. It gives them a platform to send their ideas into the world that both pays for them in bitcoin and provides free Web access in a safe place.

Related:

Charities Put A Purpose Behind Bitcoin

 

For co-founder Fereshteh Forough, it’s the hope for “digital literacy” – using a digital currency to support entrepreneurship:

“We want to teach the girls how they can use education combining the tools that they have – social media and technology – and create their own sustainable economy.”


The Plight of Afghan Women

Afghanistan, Tunisia To Issue Sovereign Bonds In Bitcoin While Also Liberating Afghan Girls From Taliban (#GotBitcoin)

The social and economic barriers that women in developing countries face everyday are disheartening. Even though women’s rights in Afghanistan have taken many positive steps forward since the end of Taliban rule in 2001, they remain at astounding odds with the standard found elsewhere in the world.

Afghanistan’s patriarchal society deplores the autonomy of women. Families commonly object to their girls’ employment, education or any pursuit that could make their control over themselves and their interests louder.

Although the statistics for female education have improved greatly over the last decade, families often make their girls leave school in their early or pre-teen years. And while it’s considered unacceptable for girls to be taught by men without the presence of women, there’s a lack of female teachers.


It’s at this juncture of social and economic inequality that WAF stands to make an impact.

 

Matthew Kenahan, who won the Blockchain Most Impactful Charity Award in Amsterdam last month and promised his winnings to WAF, said:

“If the WAF can provide a platform in which women can have their own income – a platform which pays out in bitcoin, a truly pseudonymous protocol which can truly conceal the identity, I think that we have the potential to really shake things up.”

Co-founders Forough and Roya Mahboob (or Roya Mahoob, Linkedin) hope that by earning a salary independently, the girls’ families might see their education as a source of income and become more supportive of it. It’s not always so straightforward, though. It’s common for families to confiscate money earned outside the home as an act of disapproval, for family use or other reasons out of the girls’ control.

“Having money is not the same as financial autonomy,” said Kenahan. “That requires actual control over that money, and how it’s spent, or not spent.”

Paying Out In Bitcoin

At least 2,000 WAF users in Afghanistan are paid in bitcoin. Their average income falls between $250 and $400 monthly.

The country’s average annual income is US$680, according to 2012 data.

Payouts to the girls in Afghanistan were problematic before bitcoin was integrated this February. It compensated users in US dollars via bank wires that required hefty fees or PayPal, which isn’t supported there. They would send the money to Mahboob in one lump sum, Forough recounted, who would then cash it and find a place to pay all her users in a given locaton.

“Imagine … it’s dangerous if a girl has a lot of cash in her pocket walking around the city,” she Forough. “And sometimes the family takes the money and there’s nothing for the girls.”

With bitcoin, no one other than the payee has to know that she has a bitcoin wallet. WAF can pay the girls in a timely manner with minuscule fees. This eliminates the need to open a bank account, which would require extensive documentation and the need for legal guardian approval if they are underage, which could result in more difficulties.

Bitcoin enthusiast Ross Mintzer, 27, spent three and a half months teaching girls English and music in Karachi, Pakistan from October 2011. Now in New York, where he was born and raised, he tries to send money to the schools when he can. He said:

“It’s impossible to send a small amount of money, a micropayment, and have it make sense because of the transaction fee. People have spoken to this many times, that bitcoin will change the remittance business, and I really believe it.”

Although, it seems other people could argue that for a long time.

“All I’m waiting for is for someone in Pakistan to open a shop where they can exchange the Pakistani rupee for the bitcoin, and I’m sending the bitcoin,” Mintzer said. “It’s easy, it’s powerful.”

Usability is something WAF is working on in Afghanistan, Forough said. Film Annex, the group’s parent company, provides a marketplace for content contributors to spend the bitcoins they earn, currently offering mobile and Skype credit. It offers Amazon gift cards to users in some regions, but since the concept of billing or shipping addresses doesn’t exist in Afghanistan – requiring any packages to be delivered to organisations or offices working with FedEx – users there can’t spend their digital currency earnings as easily.

Currently, WAF is scouting around for local shops in Afghanistan to collaborate with on bitcoin acceptance, particularly electronics stores, to give its girls easier access to their own smart phones and tablets – thereby encouraging further engagement with both social media and bitcoin.

Keeping Girls Connected

Developing countries lack the infrastructure needed to participate in and benefit from bitcoin. A 2011 Gallup study said that 3% of the Afghan population have home internet access.

For that reason, WAF has provided 11 computer labs in schools across Herat and Kabul free of charge. Forough said:

“We have to focus on infrastructure and girls in schools can be our target because they can be very easily influenced by the stream of content and everything. Once you find yourself in this stream you’ll find it fascinating and interesting and you’ll go with the stream and everyday you’ll elevate your level.”

It can cost around US$1 an hour to use an internet café in Afghanistan, she explained, a high price for many. Girls often have to find an all-women’s center, both to avoid verbal harassment from men and to steer clear of issues arising from disapproving family members.

The bitcoin technology is capable of improving the digital economy via e-commerce, personal finance, peer-to-peer philanthropy and crowd funding. But, Kenahan cautioned, the global community must act to ensure that all contenders in this economy are equipped to engage in it:

“Math-based currencies and cryptographic protocols are undoubtedly the main drivers of innovation within the fintech landscape … But without ensuring that the necessary tools and knowledge are both available and protected, I fear that women in socially oppressive environments will, yet again, be excluded from benefiting from the aforementioned fintech innovations. That’s a failure in my eyes.”

WAF also provides female teachers and a curriculum teaching them everything from the fundamentals of how to operate a computer to how to use sites like Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Facebook and the Women’s Annex platform. The schoolgirls that attend are between 13 and 19 years old.

Communication Without Borders

Afghanistan, Tunisia To Issue Sovereign Bonds In Bitcoin While Also Liberating Afghan Girls From Taliban (#GotBitcoin)

Community is as important to WAF’s goals as is individual empowerment. For Forough, bitcoin is a “social currency”, meaning that it’s one that assembles people by promoting social interaction, helps boost users’ social and digital presence; and revolutionary, especially in developing countries. She said:

“It’s the concept of digital citizenship, or communication without borders, and that’s how technology empowers people. I always wanted to have this for women in Afghanistan – to be powered using education and technology.”

At the same time, bitcoin also grants independence and self-responsibility to anyone that embraces it. In February PricewaterhouseCoopers reported that 96% of people surveyed that partake in bitcoin discussion are men. Given the reach of its different functions, it takes a certain curiosity and tenacity for one to educate him- or herself about it – about its role as a digital currency, as a store of value, as an undelrying technology; its regulatory grey area and its philanthropic application.

“If you have cash in your hand, you’re not gonna go and Google ‘what is the history of cash?’” Forough said. “Indirectly it [bitcoin] forces you to go through articles and interact with people that know; go to meetups. And this is the amazing part.”

And perhaps all that responsibility and self-reliance is the very thing keeping mainstream consumers from embracing it and consequently holding back more organisations from integrating bitcoin in other fields.

Kenahan called bitcoin “morally neutral, and infinitely useful”, and surmised that more philanthropic groups might emerge with greater understanding:

“It is certainly frustrating that programs like WAF may be overlooked due to the fact that bitcoin’s positive applications are constantly invalidated by past media hype surrounding Mt Gox, Silk Road, etc. If the full innovative potential provided by bitcoin and other math-based currencies were actually understood I feel, and hope, that tons of noble organisations like the WAF would sprout up.”

No Politics, Just Internet

WAF’s more active users generate more income. They receive a BuzzScore, an algorithm exclusive to the networks of Film Annex. It calculates users’ social media activity to rank their online influence, with factors including the frequency of content production and social sharing, subscriber numbers and growth rates, and the collective weight of both a user’s BuzzScore and those of her subscribers. As her BuzzScore increases, so do her earnings.
Afghanistan, Tunisia To Issue Sovereign Bonds In Bitcoin While Also Liberating Afghan Girls From Taliban (#GotBitcoin)

Good language, grammar and subject matter are also important elements of the process. Topical issues like education and women’s empowerment will likely merit a feature on Annex Press, the platform for professional writers, which can as much as double a user’s BuzzScore, thereby boosting her income further. Forough expalined:


“I monitor the girls’ activity and some girls in the schools have started writing much better, [they] are focused on very serious topics and sharing their stories. Some of them have two or three followers right now, some have 600 followers.”

The organisation has around 60,000 registered users worldwide – 6,000 of which are in Afghanistan. The platform supports content not averse to any religion or political view, with moderators serving users who speak the English, Dari and Pashta, Urdu, Arabic, Chinese and Italian languages, among others. This seems to suggest and exemplify WAF’s motto: “No politics, just Internet”.


About Women’s Annex


WAF is a nonprofit organisation that took off in 2012. Outside of Afghanistan, it operates in Pakistan, Egypt and Mexico. In addition to the computer labs that have been established in Herat and Kabul schools, it’s also built two independent computer labs in the respective areas.


The organisation is mostly driven by donations, but is also backed by Film Annex, who contributed greatly to the creation of the computer labs. The eleventh school is partially funded by Craig Newmark of Craigslist. WAF aims to raise $300,000 by the end of 2014.

Women’s Annex Foundation – Bitcoin Address: 1GetpNN3M8uBZznuQnucywSSKktAc5iecV

Updated: 7-28-2020

Donate Cryptocurrency To Rebuild Afghanistan 2.0 With Code To Inspire

Cryptocurrency Donations via The Giving Block

We’re happy to announce you can now support us on our mission to rebuild Afghanistan 2.0 by donating Bitcoin and cryptocurrency with The Giving Block!

At Code to Inspire, empowering students through technology is at the heart of what we do. We believe decentralized systems like the internet and Bitcoin are important tools to help level the playing field, to create more equal opportunity and a better future for young women in Afghanistan. We don’t immediately convert digital asset donations into fiat—we make an effort to hold the assets and to explore ways to use them to foster the development of new circular economies.

Cryptocurrency donations are classified as property transfers by the IRS, meaning it’s tax-deductible and not subject to capital gains tax. Check out this post from The Giving Block for more information and talk to your tax professional to confirm your eligibility.

We accept the following cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Zcash (ZEC), Gemini Dollar (GUSD), Basic Attention Token (BAT), Chainlink (LINK).

Code to Inspire is a registered 501 (c) (3) tax-deductible organization in the US. EIN: 47-3076235 Donate Crypto here!

 

Bitcoin Bonds A Hot Topic

Blockchain and crypto payment solutions were a hot topic at World Bank and IMF 2019 Spring Meetings, held in Washington. The event saw delegates from developing countries posing cryptocurrencies like bitcoin as a potential solution to debt distress or high-risk debt levels. The discussions went on to question whether or not the current international financial architecture was able to prevent debt and economic crisis.

Sediq’s pro-bitcoin sentiments rippled through his Tunisian counterpart. Marouane El Abassi, Governor of Banque Centrale de Tunisie, told the meeting delegates that their country was looking to launching a sovereign bitcoin bond. The former World Bank official said the bitcoin and blockchain offered central banks an efficient tool to curb money laundering, terrorist financing, simplify remittance, and drain grey economies.

Javlon Vakhabov, Uzbekistan Ambassador to the United States, also revealed that they had dispatched a study group to the IMF World Bank to study bitcoin and blockchain. The delegate confirmed that they too were planning to issue sovereign bitcoin bonds in their cotton futures market.

Uzbekistan is the fifth-largest cotton producer in the world.

A Bright Future

The delegates’ positive take on bitcoin indicated the cryptocurrency’s vital prospects. A crypto-enabled bond escalates the industry into the world of mainstream finance. It further allows larger institutions to store value using bitcoin, thereby making it possible for others to use it as a payment method.

Afghanistan, Tunisia To Issue Sovereign Bonds In Bitcoin, Bright Future Ahead (#GotBitcoin?)

IMF director Christine Lagarde said the governments should initially issue bitcoin bonds using a closed and supervised approach. 

3 Countries Tell IMF They Want To Issue Bitcoin Bonds

Afghanistan, Tunisia and Uzbekistan are currently mulling the possibility of a Bitcoin bond, all three interested in the instrument’s potential to help out critical sectors of the economy.

For Afghanistan, a bond could be tied to metals, specifically the country’s $3 trillion lithium industry. Despite being set for expansion due to a shortage of lithium, Afghanistan remains stifled when it comes to borrowing due to international restrictions.

The answer, Asia Times paraphrases Central Bank of Afghanistan governor Khalil Sediq as saying, lies in crypto solutions such as Hyperledger Fabric.

This, he claimed, “could offer a way to access international markets via a first-of-its-kind financial instrument made possible with hyperledger’s blockchain technology financial services platform.”

Similarly buoyant about the concept was newly-installed Tunisian central bank governor Marouane El Abassi. Abassi, known for his progressive stance on technology such as blockchain, said a dedicated working group was already studying the feasibility of a Bitcoin bond.

Bitcoin and Hyperledger’s Blockchain technology, he indicated,

offers central banks an efficient tool to combat money-laundering, manage remittances, fight cross-border terrorism and limit grey economies.

In line with many other nations, Tunisia is also getting to grips with the idea of issuing a digital version of its national fiat currency.

Afghanistan, Tunisia To Issue Sovereign Bonds In Bitcoin, Bright Future Ahead (#GotBitcoin?)

IMF Remains Cautious

For Uzbekistan meanwhile, a Bitcoin bond could end up tied to cotton futures, Uzbek Ambassador to the United States Javlon Vakhabov told the Spring Meetings.

The approaches may yet gain mixed reviews from the IMF, in particular. Earlier this month, managing director Christine Lagarde again called for caution regarding cryptoassets, saying supervised testing would be preferable as a first step.

“One approach, undertaken in Hong Kong SAR, Abu Dhabi, and elsewhere, is to establish regulatory ‘sandboxes’ where new financial technologies can be tested in a closely supervised environment,” she concluded in a blog post.

Above all, we must keep an open mind about crypto assets and financial technology more broadly, not only because of the risks they pose, but also because of their potential to improve our lives.

Lagarde likened the advent of early-stage cryptocurrency and associated financial technology to that of the telephone and its initial reception.


Bond, Bitcoin Bond: Japanese Firm Issues Debt Denominated In Bitcoins

Japan Takes The Lead

Japan has been at the forefront of regulating Bitcoin, with the government legalizing Bitcoins as a form of payment early this year. Regulators have also exempted Bitcoin from sales tax, increasing the volume of Bitcoin trades and at one point making Japan the largest Bitcoin market.

It comes as no surprise that a Japanese company, Fisco, has taken the lead in experimenting with Bitcoin bonds. As per a Bloomberg report, Fisco has issued a three year debt of 200 Bitcoins to another group firm.

The bond has a three percent interest rate. The company aims to arrange cryptocurrency debt for its clients if the Bitcoin market develops.

While Wall Street has taken an interest in cryptocurrencies, there haven’t been too many Bitcoin-denominated financial products so far. The efforts of the Winklevoss twins and others to start a Bitcoin ETF has remained stuck in regulatory red tape.

Borrowing In An Appreciating Currency – A Recipe For Disaster?

In the opinion of a substantial majority of people, the outlook for Bitcoin in the long term is positive. Bitcoin, although a risky asset, is expected to grow by leaps and bounds in the medium term.

In such a scenario, issuing bonds denominated in Bitcoin might be a recipe for disaster. One million dollars borrowed in mid-July could turn into debt of two million dollars in mid-August.

Ordinary businesses, whose core competency is not Bitcoin trading, cannot afford to take this substantial risk. Bitcoin-denominated loans could make sense to two types of companies. One, if the company is a Bitcoin trader who wants to take a short position in Bitcoin.

The other are companies whose earnings are denominated in Bitcoin (such as Bitcoin mining companies) who stand to benefit from Bitcoin price appreciation and can afford to pay back debt denominated in Bitcoin.

For ordinary companies, issuing Bitcoin-denominated debt is foolhardy.

What do you think about Afghanistan, Tunisia and Uzbekistan’s plans for Bitcoin bonds? Let us know in the comments below!

Updated: 8-14-2021

How The Taliban Overran The Afghan Army, (U.S. Wasted Over 2 Trillion Dollars) Built By The U.S. Over 20 Years

Afghanistan’s military was molded to match American operations and collapsed without U.S. air support and intelligence.

The Afghan government outpost in Imam Sahib, a district of northern Kunduz province, held out for two months after being surrounded by the Taliban. At first, elite commando units would come once a week on a resupply run. Then, these runs became more scarce, as did the supplies.

“In the last days, there was no food, no water and no weapons,” said trooper Taj Mohammad, 38. Fleeing in one armored personnel carrier and one Ford Ranger, the remaining men finally made a run to the relative safety of the provincial capital, which collapsed weeks later. They left behind another 11 APCs to the Taliban.

As district after district fell in this summer’s Taliban offensive, without much visible support from the Afghan national army and police forces, other soldiers simply made the calculation that it wasn’t worth fighting anymore—especially if the Taliban offered them safe passage home, as they usually did.

“Everyone just surrendered their guns and ran away,” said Rahimullah, a 25-year soldier who joined the army a year ago and served in the Shahr-e-Bozorg district of northeastern Badakhshan province. “We didn’t receive any help from the central government, and so the district fell without any fighting.”

Afghanistan’s national army and police forces, theoretically numbering 350,000 men and trained and equipped at huge cost by the U.S. and Western allies, were supposed to be a powerful deterrent to the Taliban. That is one reason why President Biden, when he announced in April his decision to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan, expressed confidence in the Afghan military’s ability to hold ground.

“They’ll continue to fight valiantly, on behalf of Afghans, at great cost,” he said at the time.

The Afghan security forces have since then experienced a humiliating collapse, losing most of the country and the major cities of Kandahar and Herat in recent days. The Taliban, with fewer fighters and until recently no armor or heavy weapons, are now on the doorstep of Kabul.

This spectacular failure stemmed from built-in flaws of the Afghan military compounded by strategic blundering of the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The Taliban, meanwhile, took advantage of the U.S.-sponsored peace talks to deceive Kabul about their intentions as they prepared and executed a lighting offensive.

The Afghan army fighting alongside American troops was molded to match the way the Americans operate. The U.S. military, the world’s most advanced, relies heavily on combining ground operations with air power, using aircraft to resupply outposts, strike targets, ferry the wounded, and collect reconnaissance and intelligence.

In the wake of President Biden’s withdrawal decision, the U.S. pulled its air support, intelligence and contractors servicing Afghanistan’s planes and helicopters. That meant the Afghan military simply couldn’t operate anymore. The same happened with another failed American effort, the South Vietnamese army in the 1970s, said retired Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger, who commanded the U.S.-led coalition’s mission to train Afghan forces in 2011-2013

“There is always a tendency to use the model you know, which is your own model,” said Gen. Bolger, who now teaches history at North Carolina State University. “When you build an army like that, and it’s meant to be a partner with a sophisticated force like the Americans, you can’t pull the Americans out all of a sudden, because then they lose the day-to-day assistance that they need,” he said.

Fears that the Afghan capital may succumb within days prompted Mr. Biden to send 3,000 American troops back to Afghanistan to secure the evacuation of U.S. and allied diplomatic missions.

When U.S. forces were still operating here, the Afghan government sought to maximize its presence through the country’s far-flung countryside, maintaining more than 200 bases and outposts that could be resupplied only by air. Extending government operations to the most of Afghanistan’s more than 400 districts has long been the main pillar of America’s counterinsurgency strategy.

Mr. Ghani had ample warning of the American departure after the Trump administration signed the February 2020 agreement with the Taliban that called on all U.S. forces and contractors to leave by May 2021. Yet, the Afghan government failed to adjust its military footprint to match the new reality. Many officials didn’t believe in their hearts that the Americans would actually leave.

“Politically it was suicide to leave certain regions, and to concentrate on certain others, and that made the Afghan army overstretched and critically dependent on close air support for logistics, medevac and combat operations,” Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar, who previously served as national-security adviser and interior minister, said in an interview.

“We did not have enough transition time to move from that arrangement to a new arrangement, to bring back forces from areas that are difficult to defend and to concentrate on the main population centers,” he added.

When the Taliban launched their offensive in May, they concentrated on overrunning those isolated outposts, massacring soldiers who were determined to resist but allowing safe conduct to those who surrendered, often via deals negotiated by local tribal elders. The Taliban gave pocket money to some of these troops, who had gone unpaid for months.

By the time the Taliban began their assault on major population centers this month, the Afghan military was so demoralized that it offered little resistance. Provincial leaders and senior commanders replicated surrender deals struck on the local level before. The elite commando units were one exception, but they were too few in number and lacked aircraft to move them around the country.

Mr. Ghani and his national-security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, were opposed to last year’s Doha agreement and expected the Biden administration to reverse course instead of doubling down on the deal struck by Mr. Trump.

Mr. Mohib, a British-educated former ambassador with no military experience, took direct control of military operations, calling unit commanders and issuing orders that bypassed the normal chain of command, according to several senior government officials and diplomats. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

For much of the past year, the Afghan minister of defense, replaced in June by veteran anti-Taliban commander Gen. Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, was out of the country, receiving medical treatment in the United Arab Emirates. Mr. Ghani routinely sacked commanders. The latest chief of the army lasted less than two months.

The U.S.-sponsored peace talks in Doha allowed the Taliban to project themselves as a moderate, benevolent force just as Mr. Ghani’s political rivals in Kabul plotted to replace him with some sort of transitional administration that would facilitate a peace deal. Former President Hamid Karzai, in particular, tried to position himself as a neutral third force, frequently lashing out at Mr. Ghani and the U.S.

“The government ended up completely isolating many people,” said Hekmat Karzai, a former deputy foreign minister and a cousin of the former president. “It became a self-licking ice cream fantasy. It just talked to itself and had very senior positions led by very inexperienced people who hardly understood the reality,” he said.

“Do the troops have a reason to fight?” he asked. “I feel that the Taliban isn’t enormously strong. It’s that the government is in disarray.”

Andrew Watkins, senior analyst for Afghanistan at the International Crisis Group, a research and advocacy organization, said that there was no evidence the Taliban had increased their manpower to launch this summer’s offensive, apart from tapping some of the 5,000 insurgent detainees who had been released under the Doha agreement.

What changed between February 2020 and Mr. Biden’s withdrawal announcement was an end to American airstrikes that used to exact a heavy toll on insurgent fighters, he noted.

“The Doha agreement bought the Taliban a one year reprieve,” said Mr. Watkins. “They were able to regroup, plan, strengthen their supply lines, have freedom of movement, without fear of American bombardment.”

When the insurgents struck, after suggesting in public that they won’t attack big cities while peace talks continue, the blow was overwhelming.

“When the Kunduz province fell to the Taliban, so many soldiers were killed. We were surrounded,” said Abdul Qudus, a 29-year-old soldier who managed to make his way to Kabul this week. “There was no air support. In the last minutes, our commander told us that they cannot do anything for us and it’s just better to run away. Everyone left the war and escaped.”


Taliban Seize Afghanistan’s Mazar-e-Sharif As They Advance Toward Kabul

President Ghani seeks to negotiate a cease-fire but pledges defense of the capital.

The Taliban entered Afghanistan’s northern metropolis of Mazar-e-Sharif, eliminating one of the last significant sources of resistance to the insurgents, as President Ashraf Ghani sought to negotiate a cease-fire but pledged to defend Kabul.

Two anti-Taliban warlords leading the defenses of Mazar-e-Sharif, Atta Mohammad Noor and Abdul Rashid Dostum, just days earlier vowed to oust the militants from the country’s north. On Saturday, they abandoned the city and fled across the border to neighboring Uzbekistan, officials and local residents said.

“It is a domino effect. No one is interested in fighting,” said an Afghan security official. By nightfall, the insurgents opened the gates of the city’s prison and were seen near the historic Blue Mosque on Mazar-e-Sharif’s main square.

It was the latest in a series of stunning defeats that followed President Biden’s April decision to withdraw American forces, depriving the Afghan troops of the air support and contractors on whom they relied to operate.

Kabul—a bustling city of six million people—has increasingly turned into an island in a Taliban sea as the insurgents advance. The U.S. and British militaries are deploying thousands of troops to the capital to secure the evacuation of diplomats and other Western civilians ahead of an expected Taliban onslaught.

Mr. Biden said in a statement Saturday he would send approximately 5,000 U.S. troops to evacuate U.S. and allied personnel, a force slightly larger than the 3,000 personnel already in transit back to Afghanistan.

Gen. Mohammad Amin Darra-e-Sufi, a member of the provincial council, blamed Mazar-e-Sharif’s fall on the U.S. as he fled toward the Uzbekistan border. “They’ve sold out Mazar, God damn, may their house collapse,” he cursed when reached by phone Saturday night.

Videos circulating on social media showed a huge column of SUV’s, Humvees and Afghan police Ford Rangers in a traffic jam on the bridge over Amu Darya between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. It wasn’t clear whether the Uzbek government would allow the soldiers and officials to enter.

In addition to Mazar-e-Sharif, the Taliban on Saturday conquered the capitals of the eastern provinces of Paktia, Paktika and Kunar, and pressed into several other cities. Outside Kabul, only one major Afghan city remains under Mr. Ghani’s control, the eastern hub of Jalalabad. It, too, has come under attack.

In his first public remarks since the Taliban raced through southern and western Afghanistan, capturing the major cities of Kandahar and Herat, Mr. Ghani said his priority is to remobilize the Afghan security forces that surrendered en masse.

“As a historic responsibility, I am trying to not let the war that has been imposed on the Afghan people cause the further killing of innocents, the loss of 20 years of achievement, the destruction of public institutions and longstanding instability,” Mr. Ghani said in a video message posted on social media, the country’s flag unfurled behind him.

Mr. Ghani appointed Brig.-Gen. Sami Sadat, a highly-regarded commander who held the Taliban at bay in the southern province of Helmand for weeks and in recent days assumed command of Afghanistan’s special-operations forces, to spearhead the defense of Kabul.

The Afghan leader has come under growing pressure from politicians to resign so that a transitional government headed by someone else could negotiate a cease-fire with the Taliban and prevent the storming of Kabul. While Mr. Ghani said in Saturday’s address that he is engaging in wide-ranging consultations, he stopped short of suggesting that a resignation was in the cards.

“Ghani’s recorded message created further confusion and failed to provide any reassurance to the people, especially Kabul residents who feel the city will inevitably be the next target as the Taliban are at the gate,” said Ali Adili, a senior researcher at the Afghan Analysts Network.

Afghan negotiators, the Taliban, the U.S. and other nations are engaged in discussions in Doha, Qatar, on how to find a political settlement to the war.

An Afghan security official said that Mr. Ghani wanted the Taliban to start cease-fire and power-sharing discussions now. After such an arrangement is in place, the president is willing to quit, he said. The Taliban have long insisted on Mr. Ghani resigning first.

A delegation of Afghan political leaders is due to travel Sunday to Islamabad, said aides to the politicians. Pakistan is considered the country with the most influence over the Taliban movement, as the Islamist group’s leadership has been largely based there since the 2001 U.S. invasion and long enjoyed the backing of Pakistani intelligence.

While Taliban negotiators in Doha proclaim that the movement doesn’t want a monopoly on power and seeks a negotiated solution, reality on the ground in Afghanistan suggested otherwise, with one city after another collapsing to the insurgent offensive.

For the U.S., the priority now is to convince the Taliban to hold off until the evacuation of Americans and other foreigners from Kabul is complete.

Mr. Biden said the U.S. has told Taliban representatives in Doha that any action on the ground in Afghanistan against U.S. personnel “will be met with a swift and strong U.S. military response.”

Kabul’s defenses are easily penetrated, and security officials estimate that hundreds of Taliban fighters already are in the city, ready to rise up and seize neighborhoods.

On the streets of Kabul’s Green Zone, where most embassies are located, local employees Saturday pushed wheelbarrows with crockery and electric items that the diplomatic missions were handing out to staff as they prepared to shut down.

Helicopters heading to the airport frequently flew overhead. The city’s passport office was mobbed by Afghans eager to secure travel documents needed for an escape. Few were available, with officials saying they had been ordered by the government to stop issuing passports so as not to encourage panic.

 

Taliban Seize Afghanistan’s Mazar-e-Sharif As They Advance Toward Kabul

President Ghani seeks to negotiate a cease-fire but pledges defense of the capital.

The Taliban entered Afghanistan’s northern metropolis of Mazar-e-Sharif, eliminating one of the last significant sources of resistance to the insurgents, as President Ashraf Ghani sought to negotiate a cease-fire but pledged to defend Kabul.

Two anti-Taliban warlords leading the defenses of Mazar-e-Sharif, Atta Mohammad Noor and Abdul Rashid Dostum, just days earlier vowed to oust the militants from the country’s north. On Saturday, they abandoned the city and fled across the border to neighboring Uzbekistan, officials and local residents said.

“It is a domino effect. No one is interested in fighting,” said an Afghan security official. By nightfall, the insurgents opened the gates of the city’s prison and were seen near the historic Blue Mosque on Mazar-e-Sharif’s main square.

It was the latest in a series of stunning defeats that followed President Biden’s April decision to withdraw American forces, depriving the Afghan troops of the air support and contractors on whom they relied to operate.

Kabul—a bustling city of six million people—has increasingly turned into an island in a Taliban sea as the insurgents advance. The U.S. and British militaries are deploying thousands of troops to the capital to secure the evacuation of diplomats and other Western civilians ahead of an expected Taliban onslaught.

Mr. Biden said in a statement Saturday he would send approximately 5,000 U.S. troops to evacuate U.S. and allied personnel, a force slightly larger than the 3,000 personnel already in transit back to Afghanistan.

Gen. Mohammad Amin Darra-e-Sufi, a member of the provincial council, blamed Mazar-e-Sharif’s fall on the U.S. as he fled toward the Uzbekistan border. “They’ve sold out Mazar, God damn, may their house collapse,” he cursed when reached by phone Saturday night.

Videos circulating on social media showed a huge column of SUV’s, Humvees and Afghan police Ford Rangers in a traffic jam on the bridge over Amu Darya between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. It wasn’t clear whether the Uzbek government would allow the soldiers and officials to enter.

In addition to Mazar-e-Sharif, the Taliban on Saturday conquered the capitals of the eastern provinces of Paktia, Paktika and Kunar, and pressed into several other cities. Outside Kabul, only one major Afghan city remains under Mr. Ghani’s control, the eastern hub of Jalalabad. It, too, has come under attack.

In his first public remarks since the Taliban raced through southern and western Afghanistan, capturing the major cities of Kandahar and Herat, Mr. Ghani said his priority is to remobilize the Afghan security forces that surrendered en masse.

“As a historic responsibility, I am trying to not let the war that has been imposed on the Afghan people cause the further killing of innocents, the loss of 20 years of achievement, the destruction of public institutions and longstanding instability,” Mr. Ghani said in a video message posted on social media, the country’s flag unfurled behind him.

Mr. Ghani appointed Brig.-Gen. Sami Sadat, a highly-regarded commander who held the Taliban at bay in the southern province of Helmand for weeks and in recent days assumed command of Afghanistan’s special-operations forces, to spearhead the defense of Kabul.

The Afghan leader has come under growing pressure from politicians to resign so that a transitional government headed by someone else could negotiate a cease-fire with the Taliban and prevent the storming of Kabul. While Mr. Ghani said in Saturday’s address that he is engaging in wide-ranging consultations, he stopped short of suggesting that a resignation was in the cards.

“Ghani’s recorded message created further confusion and failed to provide any reassurance to the people, especially Kabul residents who feel the city will inevitably be the next target as the Taliban are at the gate,” said Ali Adili, a senior researcher at the Afghan Analysts Network.

Afghan negotiators, the Taliban, the U.S. and other nations are engaged in discussions in Doha, Qatar, on how to find a political settlement to the war.

An Afghan security official said that Mr. Ghani wanted the Taliban to start cease-fire and power-sharing discussions now. After such an arrangement is in place, the president is willing to quit, he said. The Taliban have long insisted on Mr. Ghani resigning first.

A delegation of Afghan political leaders is due to travel Sunday to Islamabad, said aides to the politicians. Pakistan is considered the country with the most influence over the Taliban movement, as the Islamist group’s leadership has been largely based there since the 2001 U.S. invasion and long enjoyed the backing of Pakistani intelligence.

While Taliban negotiators in Doha proclaim that the movement doesn’t want a monopoly on power and seeks a negotiated solution, reality on the ground in Afghanistan suggested otherwise, with one city after another collapsing to the insurgent offensive.

For the U.S., the priority now is to convince the Taliban to hold off until the evacuation of Americans and other foreigners from Kabul is complete.

Mr. Biden said the U.S. has told Taliban representatives in Doha that any action on the ground in Afghanistan against U.S. personnel “will be met with a swift and strong U.S. military response.”

Kabul’s defenses are easily penetrated, and security officials estimate that hundreds of Taliban fighters already are in the city, ready to rise up and seize neighborhoods.

On the streets of Kabul’s Green Zone, where most embassies are located, local employees Saturday pushed wheelbarrows with crockery and electric items that the diplomatic missions were handing out to staff as they prepared to shut down.

Helicopters heading to the airport frequently flew overhead. The city’s passport office was mobbed by Afghans eager to secure travel documents needed for an escape. Few were available, with officials saying they had been ordered by the government to stop issuing passports so as not to encourage panic.

Updated: 8-17-2021

Taliban Say Women Would Be Allowed To Work “Where They So Choose” In Government, The Private Sector, Trade And Elsewhere

In its five-year rule from 1996 until 2001, women were banned from working outside their homes and attending schools or colleges, required to have a male escort if they went out in public, and were expected to wear a burqa — a garment that covers the full face and body. Schools for girls were closed and women were rarely permitted to leave the house. The group also banned nearly all forms of entertainment, from music and television to sports and kite-flying.

Earlier Tuesday another Taliban official, who asked not to be identified due to the group’s rules for speaking to the media, said that now women would be allowed to work “where they so choose” in government, the private sector, trade and elsewhere, as long as they abide by Islamic regulations.

The Taliban vowed Tuesday to respect women’s rights, forgive those who fought them and ensure Afghanistan does not become a haven for terrorists as part of a publicity blitz aimed at reassuring world powers and a fearful population.

Following a lightning offensive across Afghanistan that saw many cities fall to the insurgents without a fight, the Taliban have sought to portray themselves as more moderate than when they imposed a strict form of Islamic rule in the late 1990s. But many Afghans remain skeptical — and thousands have raced to the airport, desperate to flee the country.

Older generations remember the Taliban’s previous rule, when they largely confined women to their homes, banned television and music, and held public executions. A U.S.-led invasion drove them from power months after the 9/11 attacks, which al-Qaida had orchestrated from Afghanistan while being sheltered by the Taliban.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s longtime spokesman, emerged from the shadows Tuesday in his first-ever public appearance to address those concerns at a news conference.

He promised the Taliban would honor women’s rights within the norms of Islamic law, without elaborating. The Taliban have encouraged women to return to work and have allowed girls to return to school, handing out Islamic headscarves at the door. A female news anchor interviewed a Taliban official Monday in a TV studio.

The treatment of women varies widely across the Muslim world and sometimes even within the same country, with rural areas tending to be far more conservative. Some Muslim countries, including neighboring Pakistan, have had female prime ministers, while ultraconservative Saudi Arabia only recently allowed women to drive.

Mujahid also said the Taliban would not allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for attacking other countries, as it was in the years before 9/11. That assurance was part of a 2020 peace deal reached between the Taliban and the Trump administration that paved the way for the American withdrawal.

The Pentagon said U.S. commanders are communicating with the Taliban as they work to evacuate thousands of people through Kabul’s international airport. It said the Taliban have taken no hostile actions there.

Mujahid reiterated that the Taliban have offered full amnesty to Afghans who worked for the U.S. and the Western-backed government, saying “nobody will go to their doors to ask why they helped.” He said private media should “remain independent” but that journalists “should not work against national values.”

Kabul, the capital, has remained calm as the Taliban patrol its streets. But many remain fearful after prisons and armories emptied out during the insurgents’ sweep across the country.

Kabul residents say groups of armed men have been going door-to-door seeking out individuals who worked with the ousted government and security forces, but it was unclear if the gunmen were Taliban or criminals posing as militants. Mujahid blamed the security breakdown on the former government, saying the Taliban only entered Kabul in order to restore law and order after the police melted away.

A broadcaster in Afghanistan said she was hiding at a relative’s house, too frightened to return home much less go to work. She said she and other women do not believe the Taliban have changed their ways. She spoke on condition of anonymity because she feared for her safety.

A group of women wearing Islamic headscarves demonstrated briefly in Kabul, holding signs demanding the Taliban not “eliminate women” from public life.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. and other governments will not simply take the Taliban at their word when it comes to women’s rights.

“Like I’ve said all along, this is not about trust. This is about verify,” Sullivan said at a White House briefing. “And we’ll see what the Taliban end up doing in the days and weeks ahead, and when I say we, I mean the entire international community.”

Whatever their true intentions, the Taliban have an interest in projecting moderation to prevent the international community from isolating their government, as it did in the 1990s.

The European Union said it was suspending development assistance to Afghanistan until the political situation is more clear but that it would consider boosting humanitarian aid.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the Taliban must respect U.N. Security Council resolutions and human rights to earn access to some 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in development funds earmarked through 2024.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain might provide up to 10% more humanitarian aid, but the the Taliban would not get any money previously earmarked for security.

Evacuation flights resumed after being suspended on Monday, when thousands of people rushed the airport. In shocking scenes captured on video, some clung to a plane as it took off and then fell to their deaths. At least seven people died in the airport chaos, U.S. officials said.

On Tuesday, the Taliban entered the civilian half of the airport, firing into the air to drive out around 500 people there, said an Afghan official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to brief journalists.


The Taliban appeared to be trying to control the crowd rather than prevent people from leaving. A video circulating online showed the Taliban supervising the orderly departure of dozens of foreigners.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, now operating from the military side of the airport, urged Americans to register online for evacuation but not to come to the airport before being contacted.

The German Foreign Ministry said a first German military transport plane landed in Kabul but took off with only seven people on board due to the chaos. Another left later with 125 people.

U.S. President Joe Biden has defended his decision to end America’s longest war, blaming the rapid Taliban takeover on Afghanistan’s Western-backed government and security forces. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed that assessment, while saying the alliance must investigate the flaws in its efforts to train the Afghan military.

Talks continued Tuesday between the Taliban and several Afghan politicians, including former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who once headed the country’s negotiating council. The Taliban have said they want to form an “inclusive, Islamic government.”

The talks focused on how a Taliban-dominated government would operate given the changes in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, rather than just dividing up ministries, officials with knowledge of the negotiations said on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door talks.

A top Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, arrived in Kandahar on Tuesday night from Qatar, potentially signaling a deal is close at hand.

The vice president of the ousted government, meanwhile, tweeted that he was the country’s “legitimate” caretaker president. Amrullah Saleh said that under the constitution, he should be in charge because President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country.

Faiez reported from Istanbul, Gannon from Guelph, Canada, and Krauss from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Tameem Akhgar in Istanbul, Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, Pan Pylas in London, and Aya Batrawy in Dubai contributed to this report.

U.S. Halted Dollar Shipments To Afghanistan To Keep Cash Out Of Taliban’s Hands

U.S. officials are also blocking Taliban from Afghan government accounts managed by the Fed and U.S. banks.

The Biden administration last week canceled bulk shipments of dollars headed for Afghanistan as Taliban fighters were poised to take control of the capital city of Kabul, part of a continuing scramble to keep hundreds of millions of dollars out of the hands of the terrorist group, according to people familiar with the matter.

The U.S. is also blocking Taliban access to government accounts managed by the Federal Reserve and other U.S. banks and working to prevent the group’s access to nearly half-billion dollars-worth of reserves at the International Monetary Fund, according to those people.

The actions represent the last vestiges of diplomatic leverage Washington hopes will help prevent a deepening political and humanitarian crisis.

“Any central bank assets the Afghan government has in the United States will not be made available to the Taliban,” a Biden administration official said.

As the Taliban took over several provincial areas across the country and made its way toward Kabul last week, the U.S. Treasury Department made an emergency decision to work with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to halt shipment of the sealed pallets of cash.

Although the U.S. and other allied governments haven’t recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, its control of the main organs of the state, including the central bank and other offices that house government coffers, make it the de facto power.

“As a matter of policy we do not acknowledge or discuss individual account holders,” a New York Fed official told the Journal. “We do, as a general practice, communicate with the appropriate U.S. government agencies to monitor events that may impact control of a foreign central bank,” the official said.

Ajmal Ahmady, Afghanistan’s central bank chief, who fled the country on Sunday, said in an interview that he learned on Friday that no more dollar shipments would be arriving, but he declined to comment further on the decision. He said the central bank has approximately $9 billion in reserves, nearly all of which are held outside the country.

With the U.S. move to block access to those reserves, “the amount accessible to the Taliban is almost 0.1%,” Mr. Ahmady said Tuesday.

Mr. Ahmady said that bank officials began reducing the amount of cash, including U.S. dollars, held at bank branches in provincial centers earlier this month amid concerns over the Taliban’s advance. By the time the first major provincial capital fell to the Taliban nearly two weeks ago, nearly all U.S. dollars had been repatriated, he said.

“During this entire period, no dollars fell into the hands of Taliban before Kabul fell,” Mr. Ahmady said. “All of it was secured.”

Still, the speed with which Taliban fighters took over the country surprised bank officials. Mr. Ahmady said he spent Friday working to secure local branch vaults and protect central bank staff, as well as take stock of the potential economic fallout and on Saturday met with private banks and market exchanges to try to quell panic over dwindling currency supply.

“We were still having a medium-term view at that time,” he said. “Even with the fall of these provinces, I don’t think anyone had the expectation that by Sunday, everything would fall.”

The IMF didn’t comment.

The Biden administration is also working to block other assets overseas.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday warned that the U.S. would use its financial power in an effort to pressure the Taliban on several fronts, including through sanctions and financial aid that has been critical to keeping the Afghan economy afloat.

“Support from the international community, none of that will be forthcoming,” Mr. Blinken said. “Sanctions won’t be lifted, their ability to travel won’t happen, if they’re not sustaining the basic rights of the Afghan people and if they revert to supporting or harboring terrorists who might strike us,” he said.

Afghanistan’s reserve accounts at the world’s emergency lender will swell Monday by more than $450 million as part of a broader replenishment of bailout reserves at the IMF. As the de facto government, the Taliban could seek to tap that reserve, particularly as the nation faces a potential economic collapse.

But, the U.S., the IMF’s most powerful shareholder, is working to prevent that from happening, said the people familiar with the matter. Officially recognizing a country’s government as legitimate is a decision that the IMF’s collective membership would have to make. The lack of clarity on that matter, say former U.S. Treasury officials, will prevent the Taliban’s immediate access to the money.

Even if the Taliban gets access to the IMF account, it would require another country to exchange the IMF unit of lending into usable currency. China and Russia both have made political and economic overtures to the Taliban in recent years, including in actions favorable to the Taliban as members of the United Nations Security Council.

The U.S. government has sanctioned the Taliban as a terrorist organization, as have the U.N. and European Union. The Taliban’s seizure of the Afghan organs of state in Kabul effectively extends those sanctions to those institutions, some former Treasury officials and analysts said.

Because foreign banks and firms conducting transactions with the Afghan government now risk being penalized for doing business with the Taliban, cross-border trade and finance is expected to come to an abrupt halt, those people said.

Another powerful economic weapon that some former Treasury officials said is under consideration is declaring the entire country a sanctioned jurisdiction, as Washington has done with North Korea and Iran.

Afghanistan’s central bank has burned through nearly $700 million in foreign exchange reserves in the first few months of the year trying to prevent the country’s currency from collapsing, a circumstance that would spark hyperinflation, among other economic crises.

Updated: 8-20-2021

Bitcoin Lightning Network To The Rescue For Afghanistan

One of the countries that no longer has access to Western Union is Afghanistan. This is because the company decided to suspend all services to the embattled country until the current situation is better understood. Yes, you read that right. The money transmitter that is one of the two most popular services in the country has decided to shut down operations at the exact time that the average citizen needs help the most.

Afghanistan receives just under $800 million a year in remittances and it makes up approximately 4% of GDP. These aren’t massive numbers from a global perspective, but they are incredibly meaningful to the people on the ground that rely on Western Union for financial access.

It was infuriating to see this statement from the business. Rather than capitulate and shut down operations, they didn’t even attempt to increase agent capacity to deal with an increase in demand for their services. But it is useless to get mad. There is nothing that you or I can do about these types of situations.

Instead, the only solution is to build a better system. That is exactly what Jack Mallers and Strike are doing, which is interesting because Jack released a video today that shows how valuable his product has become.

Western Union Suspends Money Transfers To Afghanistan, Cutting Off ‘Vital Channel’ Of Financial Support

Remittances make up nearly 4% of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product.

Western Union is suspending money transfers into Afghanistan as America withdraws troops from the troubled country now in the Taliban’s control.

“We recognize that our services provide a vital channel for our customers to support their loved ones, and we will continue to closely monitor this rapidly-developing situation and keep our customers and associates apprised of any developments,” the company said in a statement.

Western Union, which has the capacity to wire money from the U.S. to more than 200 countries and territories, said the perilous situation left it with no choice but to temporarily halt money transfers into Afghanistan, effective Aug. 16.

The widely-seen footage of Afghans clinging to a U.S. military plane as it took off from Kabul airport was a stark image marking the close of 20 years of American intervention in the country. But the Western Union announcement is a reminder of the less-visible assistance Afghan families have been receiving via informal financial channels from family and friends abroad.

Remittances — money beamed from abroad to people inside Afghanistan — constituted nearly 4% of the country’s gross domestic product last year, according to World Bank data. Last year, Afghanistan’s GDP was $19.8 billion, the World Bank said.

The countries where remittances made pup the largest share of GDP in 2020 were Somalia (35.2% of a $4.9 billion economy), the Kyrgyz Republic (28.4% of a $7.7 billion economy) and Tajikistan (26.6% of an $8.1 billion economy), World Bank data show.

People in Afghanistan received $788.9 million last year in remittances, the World Bank said.

Western Union and MoneyGram are the two big money transfer companies in most countries, according to Paul Vaaler, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

People living in urban areas like Kabul will be the ones feeling Western Union’s absence, said Vaaler, who has been studying the effects of remittances on the developing world, including Afghanistan.

MoneyGram did not respond to a request for comment on the status of its Afghanistan operations.

In rural areas, however, the informal hawala money transfer network found in Muslim-majority countries will continue on, Vaaler said.

Hawala, “transfer” in Arabic but with added references of “trust” in Hindi and Urdu, is a centuries-old, informal money transfer system to get money from one place to another, with a commission layered in. Because the network is based on trust and connections, the hawala dealers, or hawaladars, offering their services to move the currency, usually share ethnic ties with the customers they serve, Vaaler said.

Hawala is “used around the world to conduct legitimate remittances. Like any other remittance system, hawala can, and does, play a role in money laundering,” said the authors of a Treasury Department Financial Crimes Enforcement Network/INTERPOL report.

In the big picture, remittances accounting for approximately 4% GDP may not sound like a significant number, but anything helps in the war-torn country.
Afghanistan has a population of 37.4 million people and 54.5% live in poverty, according to the CIA’s World Factbook. (The poverty estimates are from 2016, the CIA notes.)

When it comes to the hawala networks, Vaaler said “that money is incredibly important. It’s literally the lifeblood of the rural economy.” For him, the big open question is what happens next for the hawala networks. However, he noted, “those groups, they know how to work with or avoid the Taliban.”

Taliban Takeover Renders Budget For Afghanistan Null And Void

U.S. forces are evacuating Americans and others after Afghan government’s collapse.

AFGHANISTAN’S FALL to the Taliban has rendered several provisions of House Democrats’ foreign-affairs budget inoperable less than a month after it passed the chamber and before it was formally taken up by the Senate. The foreign-affairs appropriations package, passed July 28, included money for Afghanistan programs such as clearing improvised explosive devices and analyzing whether women and girls are included in the now-defunct peace process, and giving priority to investments in Afghanistan’s handmade-crafts sector.

The House bill, which received no Republican support, called on the State Department to provide regular updates on the number of locally employed staff and contractors supporting the U.S. Embassy in Kabul’s operations as well as the “impacts to foreign assistance programs and the presence of diplomatic and development personnel in Afghanistan.” U.S. forces evacuated the embassy on Sunday and are currently spiriting out as many diplomats, Afghan allies and development personnel as possible following the Afghan government’s collapse.

Sen. Chris Coons, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on state and foreign Operations, is working with the Biden administration to revise the budget, a spokeswoman said. “As the situation in Afghanistan is fluid and unpredictable, it is necessary to see how it evolves before we are able to determine whether the United States can continue to stay engaged beyond providing humanitarian aid, which is urgently needed for the foreseeable future.”

Helping Afghanistan: Organizations Currently Accepting Crypto Donations

Basic needs for refugees, medical care on the ground and visa assistance — some crypto users are sending tokens to nonprofits and others to help the Afghan people.

With thousands of Afghans currently being accepted as refugees in different countries following the Taliban’s takeover of many highly populated areas, many nonprofit organizations are accepting donations in cryptocurrency.

Thousands, if not millions, of Afghans are attempting to or are in the process of fleeing their home in fear of what the Taliban may do now they are largely in control of the country. Organizations helping refugees and those on the ground have put the word out: They need funds to support Afghans arriving on foreign soil with often little more than the clothes on their backs.

Hearts & Homes for Refugees, a New-York based grassroots nonprofit, is currently calling for donations to assist the roughly 20,000 Afghans still in the country waiting for United State authorities to process special immigrant visas. The group hopes to raise enough funds to relocate Afghan families to Westchester County, and currently accepts Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), ZCash (ZEC), Gemini dollar (GUSD), BAL, Yearn.Finance (YFI), Polygon (MATIC), Synthetix (SNX) and Bancor (BNT) through its integration with the Giving Block.

CARE, an organization with offices across the world that advocates for women and girls, said 393,000 Afghans have been displaced during the Taliban takeover and are in need of emergency aid. Jack Butcher, the founder of consulting firm Visualize Value, launched a series of nonfungible token, or NFT, “care packages,” each of which is aimed to be sold to match the organization’s estimated cost covering a single family’s emergency needs for a month.

Butcher said the 0.028 ETH proceeds of each NFT sale — totaling $124,576, as of Aug. 19 — have gone directly to CARE to help Afghans. At the time of publication, 195 of the individual NFTs are still available to purchase. Crypto users also have the option of purchasing 10 at a time for 0.28 ETH, or roughly $914, to help 10 families through late September.

Some organizations with operations on the ground in Afghanistan are also still in contact using social media and asking for help. Code to Inspire, a school aiming to educate Afghan girls on coding and robotics, is accepting crypto contributions via the Giving Block. Founder Fareshteh Forough reported today that students were “still coding at home.”

The situation in Afghanistan is still developing, but there have already been reports of assault, murder and human rights violations as the Taliban expand their foothold. However, it’s important for well-intentioned crypto users to be mindful about who they donate to; some fear that scammers may use the media attention to their advantage by stealing donations intended for Afghans.

Updated: 8-21-2021

Inside Afghanistan’s Cryptocurrency Underground As The Country Plunges Into Turmoil

Afghanistan, Tunisia To Issue Sovereign Bonds In Bitcoin While Also Liberating Afghan Girls From Taliban (#GotBitcoin)

Crypto Trader And Vlogger Farhan Hotak Traveling To The Shah Wali Kot District In Afghanistan.

Farhan Hotak isn’t your typical 22 year-old Afghan.

In the last week, he helped his family of ten flee the province of Zabul in southern Afghanistan and travel 97 miles to a city on the Pakistani border.

But unlike others choosing to leave the country, once his relatives were in safe hands, Hotak then turned around and came back so that he could protect his family home – and vlog to his thousands of Instagram followers about the evolving situation on the ground in Afghanistan.

He has also been keeping a very close eye on his crypto portfolio on Binance, as the local currency touches record lows and nationwide bank closures make it next to impossible to withdraw cash.

“In Afghanistan, we don’t have platforms like PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle, so I have to depend on other things,” said Hotak.

Afghanistan still mostly operates as a cash economy, so money in Hotak’s crypto wallet won’t help him put dinner on his table tonight, but it does give him peace of mind that some of his wealth is safeguarded against economic instability at home.

It also offers bigger promises down the road: Access to the global economy from inside Afghanistan, certain protections against spiraling inflation, and crucially, the opportunity to make a bet on himself and a future he didn’t think was possible before learning about bitcoin.

“I have very, very, very limited resources to do anything. I’m interested in the crypto world, because I have earned a lot, and I see a lot of potential in myself that I can go further,” he said.

Run On The Banks

For many Afghans, this week has laid bare the worst-case scenario for a country running on legacy financial rails: A nationwide cash shortage, closed borders, a plunging currency, and rapidly rising prices of basic goods.

Many banks were forced to shutter their doors after running out of cash this week. Photos featuring hundreds of Kabul residents crowding outside branches in a futile effort to draw money from their accounts went viral.

“There’s no bank I can go to right now, no ATM,” said Ali Latifi, a journalist born and based in Kabul. “I live above two banks and three ATM machines, but they’ve been off since Thursday,” said Latifi, referring to the Thursday before the palace ouster. 

Without an authority helming the Central Bank, it appears that printing cash to cover the shortfall isn’t an option, at least in the short-term. 

The Western Union has suspended all services and even the centuries-old “hawala” system – which facilitates cross-border transactions via a sophisticated network of money exchangers and personal contacts – for now, remains closed.

Sangar Paykhar, a Kabul native currently living in the Netherlands, has been in constant touch with relatives there in recent weeks. He said that many who live paycheck to paycheck were, at first, borrowing money from others to get by, but now, those able to lend out cash have started conserving their funds.

“They’ve realized the regime has collapsed” and that those they are lending to “might not have a job tomorrow,” said Paykhar.

A few days before the Taliban entered Kabul, Musa Ramin was among the people who queued outside a bank in a fruitless attempt to withdraw cash. But unlike other Afghans in line with him that day, months earlier, he had invested a portion of his net worth into crypto. Ramin had been burned before by a rapidly depreciating currency, and decentralized digital money had proven to be a trusted safeguard. 

In 2020, on what was meant to be a brief layover on a trip from London to Kabul, Ramin got stuck in Turkey. A one-week, mandatory Covid quarantine ballooned into six months.

“I converted all my money to the lira,” he said. After the Turkish currency began to spiral, Ramin said his capital was cut in half, and he was forced to conserve it. “That is when I discovered bitcoin.”

With all flights cancelled and no other options for departure, Ramin realized he needed to find alternative ways to support himself while stranded in Turkey during the pandemic-related shutdown. That’s when he started trading crypto. 

“At first, I lost a lot of money,” he said. But he’s since gotten the swing of managing his digital assets, thanks to Twitter and tutorials on YouTube.

Even after returning to Kabul, the 27 year-old says he put all his focus into trading crypto. 80% of his crypto capital is in spot exposure, primarily in major coins, like bitcoin, ethereum, and binance coin. The other 20% he uses to trade futures. 

“I was making more money in crypto in a month than in construction in a year,” said Ramin, though he did acknowledge the risk that’s involved. “It’s easy making money in crypto but keeping that wealth is the difficult part.”

Despite that volatility, Ramin still sees crypto as the safest place to park his cash. “If a government isn’t formed quickly, we might see a Venezuela-type situation here,” Ramin told CNBC. He feels virtual tokens are his safest hedge against political uncertainty and plans to increase his exposure to digital currencies in the coming year to as much as 40% of his total net worth.

Ramin isn’t alone in his thinking. Google trends data shows that web searches in Afghanistan for “bitcoin” and “crypto” rose sharply in July just before the coup in Kabul. That said, because this tool is a measure of interest, the spike could be referring to 10 searches or it could be 100,000.

But in a country that has long relied on physical cash for virtually all transactions, not many people have the option to let their savings sit in a bank account, let alone a digital wallet. 

Just take Hotak. He lives in a remote part of Afghanistan where there are no ATMs or bank branches nearby. That means he has to keep a lot of physical cash on hand, in order to cover daily expenses. “Afghanistan is an unexpected country, and you have to be ready for anything,” he said.

While Hotak thinks that crypto is his future, for now, the bulk of his income comes from day labor jobs, like shoveling, brick work, digging wells, and running a tailor shop that makes clothes.

“Zabul is not a very developed city. It’s a village, so that’s how I earn,” he said.

Signs Of A Growing Crypto Economy

It’s hard to get insight into crypto adoption in Afghanistan.

Beyond the fact that measuring cryptocurrency adoption at the grassroots level isn’t easy, people actively go out of their way to hide who they are.

Some Afghans, for example, will conceal their IP address by using a virtual private network, or VPN, in order to mask their geographic digital footprint.

And unlike many crypto boosters – who tend to be vocal and community-driven – digital currency supporters inside Afghanistan often don’t want others to know they exist.

“The crypto community in Afghanistan is very small,” said Hotak. “They actually don’t want to meet each other.” He thinks that could change if the political situation normalizes, but “for now, everyone just wants to stay hidden until things are nice.”

However, new research from blockchain data firm Chainalysis is offering fresh optics on the country’s apparently burgeoning peer-to-peer (P2P) crypto network, which is increasingly the most telling metric of adoption in Afghanistan. Hotak, as well as his friends, use Binance’s P2P exchange, which allows them to buy and sell their coins directly with other users on the platform.

Chainalysis’ 2021 Global Crypto Adoption Index gives Afghanistan a rank of 20 out of the 154 countries it evaluated in terms of overall crypto adoption. And when you isolate for its P2P exchange trade volume, Afghanistan jumps up to seventh place. That’s a big move in just 12 months: Last year, Chainalysis considered Afghanistan’s crypto presence to be so minimal as to entirely exclude it from its 2020 ranking.

“Afghanistan on top makes sense from a capital controls point of view, given it’s hard to move money in and out,” explained Boaz Sobrado, a London-based fintech data analyst.

And some experts tell CNBC that Chainalysis could actually be underestimating its overall adoption.

“Unlike many other countries, sanctioned nations don’t have good and clear data on P2P markets,” explained Sobrado. He says that is partly to do with the fact that it is harder to track those transactions.

There are other anecdotal signs of adoption across the country.

Nearly a decade ago, sisters and Afghan entrepreneurs Elaha and Roya – both of whom had a focus on computer science at Herat University – founded the Digital Citizen Fund, an NGO that helps women and girls in developing countries gain access to technology. The organization has 11 women-only IT centers in Herat and another two in Kabul, where they teach 16,000 females everything from essential computer skills to blockchain technology.

Before classes were suspended earlier this week, creating a crypto wallet was also part of the curriculum. Elaha Mahboob tells CNBC that some students have chosen to secure their money in crypto accounts and a few have specifically started investing in bitcoin and ethereum in order to achieve their long-term financial goals.

“This is especially important as they don’t have to worry about not having access to their money, because major banks in Afghanistan have closed,” Mahboob said.

A few Digital Citizen Fund participants have left the country and used the crypto accounts they made in class as a way to transfer their money out.

Afghanistan’s exposure to the cryptosphere was also taking place inside the presidential palace. Blockchain company Fantom told CNBC it had been working in tandem with the previous government.

One such project with the Ministry of Health involved piloting blockchain technology to track counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Fantom says the pilot “concluded successfully,” and they had been preparing for national rollout before the Taliban took over.

Then there’s Sweden-based Bitrefill, an online marketplace that helps customers live on cryptocurrency by exchanging digital coins like bitcoin or dogecoin for gift cards with partner merchants. In Afghanistan, the card offerings include multiple mobile phone service providers, games such as Fortnite and Minecraft, Hotels.com, and Flightgift, which can be redeemed for flights with 300 international airlines.

While the company wouldn’t share sales numbers on the record with CNBC, Bitrefill does have the endorsement of Janey Gak, who uses it to top up her phone. Her Twitter account has become a must-follow for those who want to understand the situation on the ground through her eyes, but she’s also evangelizing the power of bitcoin to transform the country.

“I’m just an ordinary person. I’m not anyone special,” she said. “I am just someone who discovered bitcoin a couple of years ago.”

In 2018, Gak — who goes by the name “Bibi Janey” — started a Facebook page as a hobby to see what Afghans thought of bitcoin. “I remember getting a lot of comments and questions like, ‘Can you explain more?’” she said. “People would be fascinated by it, but they would be so confused.” She also got lots of questions about where to buy bitcoin.

Since entering this world, she has learned how to code and reads as much as she can about bitcoin. “I don’t trade, I don’t do any of that,” she said. “I just make some money here and there and save it in bitcoin.”

Through her research, she’s come to the conclusion that in order for Afghanistan to be a truly sovereign state, it must never borrow money – and adopt a bitcoin standard. To foment wider adoption, Gak commissions articles to be translated to local languages.

“It’s not much, but it’s a start,” she told CNBC.

DIY Crypto Rails

The on-ramp to participating in the crypto economy in Afghanistan is complicated and there are still multiple barriers to entry.

Access to the internet, while growing, remains low. There were 8.64 million internet users in Afghanistan in January 2021, according to DataReportal.com and internet penetration stood at 22%.

Unreliable electricity poses another major issue, as power outages are common. “Power goes out once every day for a couple of hours,” said Ramin, though he noted that it happens in some parts of Kabul more often than others.

When CNBC first spoke to Hotak, he was seated near one of the land-crossings into Pakistan, tapping into a WiFi network across the border. “We don’t have proper internet on the Afghanistan side,” he explained. 

Hotak also uses solar power to charge his phone, given the country’s long-standing issue with electricity outages. 

Electricity and a stable internet connection are two essential rails for widespread crypto adoption. Also critical is having access to some form of online banking or a credit card that is recognized internationally – which again, poses a big problem for many Afghans. Eighty-five percent of the country is unbanked, according to one U.N. estimate, meaning they do not have a bank account.

So people wishing to deal in crypto have to get creative.

Hotak and some of his contacts enlist the help of family and friends in neighboring Pakistan or across the Gulf of Oman in the United Arab Emirates, where they have easier access to global markets.

“It’s very easy in Pakistan,” he said. “Most people have relatives in Dubai, who buy crypto for them using their credit cards.”

When the person then wants to liquidate their crypto stake, relatives will sell it for them and use the hawala system, an honor-based system of credit common in Asia and the Middle East, to transfer the funds across the border to Afghanistan. The strategy requires a great deal of trust. In the case of Hotak, his friend in Pakistan doubles as his crypto broker.

“He is a very, very close friend. He has his details on the account that I use, so we could say that it’s his account, but I use it,” Hotak said of the arrangement.

Trust is also key when it comes to judging the quality of trading tips. “There’s a lot of scammers on YouTube and Twitter,” warned Ramin. When he first started off, he would spend most of his money buying coins promoted by people looking for exit liquidity. “That’s why I stopped trading small-cap coins.”

Hotak, on the other hand, has found a reliable online community that offers him sound trading advice.

“There’s a few groups on Telegram, WhatsApp, and there’s even a Pakistani community on Facebook I follow that gives me the signals to sell. I follow them, and it’s been good so far,” said Hotak.

Brokers advertising crypto services on Facebook appear to be operating across the country. Hotak visited one in Herat in early 2020. He went to interview for a job there and says the two-story data center was packed with boys, mostly aged 20 to 25.

“They were all university people,” he said. “They all had smartphones in their hands, and they were just scrolling down and down.”

CNBC has not spoken with any of these brokerages directly, but Hotak says the site he visited in Herat is still going. Hotak also says that Herat is home to a bitcoin mining farm.

“They had these very big CPUs. Very advanced,” he said. But Hotak tells CNBC he didn’t get to see the entire operation. “I just got a little glimpse of it.”

Blockchain analysts Lorne Lantz and Rieya Piscano say they looked at various data sources and found no sign of bitcoin or ethereum nodes running in Afghanistan, so it is unclear whether this miner in Herat has covered his online footprint, or whether he’s cut off his rigs.

Even with all of these workarounds, the political turmoil of the last few weeks doesn’t make it easy to find time to think about crypto.

“The reality is I cannot focus on crypto trading when the ongoing events in Afghanistan are this intense,” said Hotak. “With no electricity and bad internet, crypto trading is near to impossible, so we just hold.”

Path To Mass Adoption

On Aug. 15, an hour and a half before Ramin’s flight bound for Turkey was due to take off, then-President Ghani arrived to the airport in Kabul. After that, Ramin says that all flights were halted and everyone was kicked out. 

Ramin still has plans to leave, along with his family. But finding a flight is proving to be difficult. He’s used his now dwindling supply of afghanis to purchase flights for ten members of his family. He’s done this three times, and all three times, the flights were canceled. With travel agencies shut, he remains in a bit of a holding pattern on the ground in Kabul. 

Ramin is one among many looking to leave the country. Every media outlet on the planet has been circulating the same photos of Afghans clinging to planes, fleeing the country with whatever possessions they can carry. For several, this has meant having to leave a lot behind.

Ramin estimates that around 5-10% of his net worth is in crypto, which makes it easier to plan an exit, knowing that there is some money in the bank to tide him over, especially since he doesn’t know if he will ever see the money in his bank accounts in Kabul.

“If some type of government doesn’t come to existence, then I could potentially see the majority of my wealth being wiped out,” he said. For now, he and his family are just sitting tight, waiting to catch a flight out.

But many people are staying put, in part because they want to foment positive change at home.

“In these circumstances, one can fully appreciate the censorship-resistance property of blockchain-based assets. I believe this is the main driver of the fundamental value of bitcoin and other cryptos,” said Andrea Barbon, Assistant Professor of Finance at the University of St. Gallen.

Gak, for example, thinks that using legacy financial rails like the hawala system might be one of the most effective ways to foster mass adoption. It is a vision she detailed in a prescient story she wrote for Hacker Noon in 2018.

She’s also thinking about opening her own exchange shop in Kabul. “The idea is that anyone with bitcoin can exchange it for fiat and then use that to buy goods like always. Anyone who is unable to receive can have their family for example, send the bitcoin to me with a unique address that only the recipient would know just like hawala,” she explained in a tweet.

Ramin has a similar plan to make crypto more accessible to Afghans. “I hope once I gain more knowledge in blockchain technology to create a team and develop an easily accessible trading platform which Afghans can use,” he said.

There are promising trends on their side. The number of social media users in Afghanistan increased by 22% from 2020 to 2021, and 68.7% of the total population now has a mobile phone connection, according to DataReportal.com. It helps that more than 60% of the population is under 25 and hungry to be a part of the modern economy. Shakib Noori, previously the CEO of a mobile money company in Afghanistan, says this younger demographic also tends to be more tech savvy.

Ultimately, CNBC is told that grassroots adoption comes down to one Afghan teaching another about how cryptocurrencies like bitcoin work. Hotak has already mentored three students, and that’s just the beginning.

“The Afghan people – they’re very complicated. And it’s very hard convincing them that digital currency exists,” he said. “I have plans to teach people about cryptocurrency in the future…but for now, people are just laying low and waiting to see what happens next.”


Show Afghan Girls The World Still Cares

At their emergency summit next week, G-7 nations should commit to funding Afghan schools at the same rate as before — as long as they remain open to female students.

Taliban leaders ask us to believe that they will not return to the oppression of their pre-2001 rule, when they persecuted women, violated the basic rights of girls and denied them education. Sadly, actions on the ground do not yet bear this out.

Conquering fighters have reportedly seized young girls as “wives.” Women are afraid to leave their homes unless clad in full-body burqas and niqabs, and schools are already closing, with girls told that education is not for them.  

In an interview in June, the Taliban leadership called for “separation between girls and boys, women and men, in universities, schools or madrassas.” While they say that  girls can, for now, continue with their first three years of education, one Taliban commander stated, ominously, that “our ulema [scholars] will decide whether girls are allowed to go to school or not.” Girls, Taliban negotiators have said, will have to abide by “Islamic injunctions.”

All this puts at risk perhaps the greatest single achievement in Afghanistan in the last 20 years: the meteoric expansion of education from 1 million to 9.5 million students. At the peak, 65% of young girls were attending first grade and 4 million more girls were benefiting from primary or secondary education. Many are now training to be doctors, scientists and lawyers, and are entering professional occupations for the first time. 

Protecting girls from a rerun of the pre-2001 terror requires us to do more than promise tens of thousands of Afghan families the chance to resettle in the West. We need to come to the aid of the millions of children who will never be able to leave their country.

Even when our options are limited, we can show our determination to help girls fulfill their potential and to ensure that, whether it be forced marriage or trafficking, no abuse will go unreported and undocumented. Wherever humanly possible, no child in difficulty should be left unsupported and feel unloved.

So, at their emergency summit on Afghanistan next week, G-7 nations should make a bold offer of international aid for Afghan education: to repeat for the next 20 years the $8  billion we gave in the last 20 years, to be overseen by UNICEF and the brave humanitarian agencies on the ground including Education Cannot Wait, the refugee organization which will be needed more than ever to school the fast-rising number of displaced children.  

Aid should be distributed based on the model agreement signed between UNICEF and the Taliban last December to create more than 3,000 informal schools in Taliban-controlled areas. That set down conditions for assistance, the most important of which are the protection of girls’ and women’s rights and secure access to education. Borrowing from successful “safe schools” initiatives in Nigeria and Pakistan, we should also require proper security at and around school gates to ensure girls don’t have to fear entering a classroom.   

At the same time, we should state unequivocally that aid, including the donor pledges already made for 2021-2024, will be withdrawn if the rights of girls are not upheld. And we should remind the new government that there are wider sanctions available to us, too. Afghanistan has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

We should say it will be judged by the extent to which it complies with the standards set by these treaties and with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), to which Afghanistan is also a party. The Taliban will know that they already face the scrutiny of ICC prosecutors in the Hague, who last year opened an investigation into alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan since May 2003.

Any new Taliban-led government needs to understand that the eyes of the world are upon it. That’s why, from this month onward, the University of Edinburgh’s Children in Conflict Group will monitor girls’ rights in Afghanistan. In future, as proposed in the landmark report on Protecting Children in Armed Conflict, the existing Committee on the Rights of the Child might serve as a single international instrument and mechanism for accountability. Children and their families would be empowered to raise complaints directly before the Committee.

Even in these most unpromising of circumstances, we must help the children of Afghanistan bridge the gap between what they are and what they have it in themselves to become. Not only is education the best long-term investment in a child’s life, it has a critical role to play in the global fight against extremism and political instability. Somewhere in Afghanistan is a young girl who, given time and opportunity, may one day become the leader who can finally move her nation on from decades of failed leadership, corruption and extremism. It’s in all our interests to give that girl a real chance.

Updated: 8-24-2021

Help Afghan Refugees and They’ll Help America

Having paid a price for liberty, immigrants fleeing tyranny understand the importance of freedom.

The current debacle in Afghanistan is not only the Biden administration’s shame but America’s shame—all the more so if the U.S. fails to provide a haven for the thousands of Afghans who risked everything to serve American and allied forces and who are now in deadly danger along with their families.

The chaos on the Mexican border may make some Americans hesitant to accept these Afghans desperately fleeing the Taliban. But rescuing them is a moral obligation and a matter of national self-interest. History has shown that earlier immigrants who fled tyranny have helped renew Americans’ faith in the country’s institutions and founding principles.

Having paid a sometimes terrible price to obtain liberty themselves, these immigrants understood the importance of freedom. Over the past 70 years, waves of Cuban, Hungarian, Iranian and Vietnamese immigrants fleeing communism and Islamism have transformed themselves from desperate refugees into icons of the American dream through hard work and initiative, the strength of their families and communities, and above all their recognition that the freedoms they enjoy as Americans aren’t free.

Think too of the impact on the U.S. of earlier immigrant groups that came in search of liberty. Without the scientists who escaped Nazism and fascism in the 1930s and 1940s—such as Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, John von Neumann, Leo Szilard and Edward Teller—there would have been no atomic bomb, and World War II would have likely ended with a slow, brutal invasion of Japan at a cost of many more lives.

A particularly good parallel with the current plight of Afghans is the evacuation of 38,000 Hungarian refugees to America after the Soviet crackdown on the 1956 revolution, thanks to the Eisenhower administration’s Operation Safe Haven.

Giving those victims of communism a home in the U.S. became a national crusade. Among those who broadcast the appeal was Elvis Presley on “The Ed Sullivan Show”; in 2011 Presley was posthumously named an honorary citizen of Budapest.

Like Afghans today, Hungary’s refugees had seen their rights brutally shattered by events beyond their control. In America they felt they could recover those freedoms and the lives they tried to build with them. Many former escapees rose to the top of their professions over the years, such as former Intel CEO Andy Grove (born András Gróf ), billionaire aerospace executive Steven Udvar-Házy, fashion designer Adrienne Vittadini and two pillars of American conservatism—historian John Lukacs (who had come to the U.S. earlier, when communists first took over Hungary) and Peter Schramm.

Cuban-Americans are probably the best-known example of refugees from communism who built powerful bonds of loyalty to the U.S. Between 1959 and 1962, more than 248,000 fled to America, while the State Department and Catholic Church’s Operation Pedro Pan brought more than 14,000 unaccompanied minors to new homes in the U.S. Successive administrations granted them special immigrant status as they and other Cubans fleeing for freedom became staunch American patriots, while their entrepreneurial drive and civic-mindedness transformed the economy of Miami and South Florida.

One can argue that Cubans and Hungarians were already Westernized before they arrived, and faced fewer obstacles to assimilating into U.S. culture than Afghan refugees do today. Yet Iranians who fled after the fall of the shah in 1979 faced many of those same barriers and nonetheless integrated into the American mainstream and even became a major force in Silicon Valley and U.S. universities. The 2000 Census found that they held more advanced degrees than any other ethnic group per capita, and had a median family income 20% higher than the national average.

Or take the 125,000 Vietnamese who were evacuated to America after the communist takeover in 1975. Not only did they lack any clear cultural or ethnic links to the U.S. mainstream, they had every reason to feel bitter about American betrayal and false promises of peace and stability—not unlike Afghans today.

Instead they became some of the hardest-working and most patriotic Americans. By 2017 Vietnamese-Americans were the sixth largest foreign-born group in the country, numbering more than 1.3 million. They embraced education as fervently as other Asian-American groups, rising rapidly in business, law and medicine.

The same holds true of Cambodian refugees fleeing the brutal Khmer Rouge. Of the 158,000 Cambodians who entered the U.S. between 1975 and 1994, mainly as refugees but also as immigrants and humanitarian parolees, barely 5% of the first wave managed to find white-collar jobs. A large proportion had to subsist on welfare, especially women heads of households whose husbands had been murdered by the Khmer Rouge.

By 2019 the median household income for Cambodian-Americans equaled $67,000, just below the overall U.S. median household income of $68,703. The descendants of Southeast Asian immigrants include U.S. gold medal gymnast Sunisa Lee, the daughter of Hmong refugees from Laos.

This week came news reports of an Oklahoma mother helping the evacuation of 10 members of Afghanistan’s all-girl robotics engineering team. Washington policy makers should follow her example. Afghan refugees have already risked their lives to serve America. Now they will inject new meaning into the American experiment.

Airbnb To Offer Temporary Housing To 20,000 Afghan Refugees

Home-sharing company says effort funded by its nonprofit arm has already placed 165 Afghans who were evacuated to U.S.

Airbnb Inc. will offer free, temporary housing for 20,000 Afghan refugees around the world, the company said Tuesday.

Airbnb and Airbnb.org, a nonprofit established by the home-sharing company that works to provide housing during crises, will fund and place refugees fleeing Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, working with resettlement agencies and nongovernment organizations to determine their needs.

“The displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees in the U.S. and elsewhere is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time,” said Brian Chesky, co-founder and chief executive officer of Airbnb, in a post on Twitter Tuesday. “We feel a responsibility to step up.”

The rapid Taliban takeover of Afghanistan created a desperate rush among residents seeking to flee the country. The Biden administration on Tuesday is set to discuss extending its Aug. 31 deadline to evacuate thousands of people.

On Monday, the White House said the U.S. has helped evacuate 48,000 people since Aug. 14. The United Nations Refugee Agency says there are close to 2.5 million registered Afghan refugees around the world.

Airbnb said it has already housed 165 Afghan refugees who have arrived in the U.S. The company and its charitable organization are working with hosts registered on the property-rental platform. The charity also worked with the International Rescue Committee, HIAS and Church World Service last week to make temporary housing available through Airbnb for 1,000 Afghan refugees.

Airbnb and Airbnb.org have given temporary housing to 25,000 refugees from around the world over the past four years.

China Eyes Afghanistan’s $1 Trillion of Minerals With Risky Bet On Taliban

When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the global economy looked a lot different: Tesla Inc. wasn’t a company, the iPhone didn’t exist and artificial intelligence was best known as a Steven Spielberg film.

Now all three are at the cutting edge of a modern economy driven by advancements in high-tech chips and large-capacity batteries that are made with a range of minerals, including rare earths. And Afghanistan is sitting on deposits estimated to be worth $1 trillion or more, including what may be the world’s largest lithium reserves — if anyone can get them out of the ground.

Four decades of war — first with the Soviet Union, then between warring tribes, then with the U.S. — prevented that from happening. That’s not expected to change anytime soon, with the Taliban already showing signs they want to reimpose a theocracy that turns back the clock on women’s rights and other basic freedoms rather than lead Afghanistan to a prosperous future.

But there’s also an optimistic outlook, now being pushed by Beijing, that goes like this: The Taliban form an “inclusive” government with warlords of competing ethnic groups, allows a minimal level of basic human rights for women and minorities, and fights terrorist elements that want to strike the U.S., China, India or any other country.

“With the U.S. withdrawal, Beijing can offer what Kabul needs most: political impartiality and economic investment,” Zhou Bo, who was a senior colonel in the People’s Liberation Army from 2003 to 2020, wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times over the weekend. “Afghanistan in turn has what China most prizes: opportunities in infrastructure and industry building — areas in which China’s capabilities are arguably unmatched — and access to $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits.”

For that scenario to have even a remote possibility, much depends on what happens the next few weeks. Although the U.S. is racing to evacuate thousands of Americans and vulnerable Afghans after a rushed troop withdrawal ending 20 years of war, President Joe Biden still has the power to isolate any new Taliban-led government on the world stage and stop most companies from doing business in the country.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Group of Seven nations said the legitimacy of any Afghan government hinges on its adherence to international obligations including ensuring human rights for women and minorities. “We will judge the Afghan parties by their actions, not words,” the group said after a virtual leaders meeting.

The U.S. maintains sanctions on the Taliban as an entity, and it can veto any moves by China and Russia to ease United Nations Security Council restrictions on the militant group. Washington has already frozen nearly $9.5 billion in Afghanistan’s reserves and the International Monetary Fund has cut off financing for Afghanistan, including nearly $500 million that was scheduled to be disbursed around when the Taliban took control.

Mineral Riches

Afghanistan is estimated to have more than $1 trillion in deposits.

To have any hope of accessing those funds, it will be crucial for the Taliban to facilitate a smooth evacuation of foreigners and vulnerable Afghans, negotiate with warlords to prevent another civil war and halt a range of human-rights abuses. Already tensions are growing over an Aug. 31 deadline for troops to withdraw, with the Taliban warning the U.S. not to cross what it called a “red line.”

Still, the Taliban have several reasons to exercise restraint. Kabul faces a growing economic crisis, with prices of staples like flour and oil surging, pharmacies running short on drugs and ATMs depleted of cash. The militant group this week appointed a new central bank chief to address those problems, just as his exiled predecessor warned of shocks that could lead to a weaker currency, faster inflation and capital controls.

The Taliban also want sanctions lifted, with spokesman Suhail Shahee telling China’s state-owned broadcaster CGTN this week that financial penalties would hurt efforts to rebuild the economy. “The push for more sanctions will be a biased decision,” he said. “It will be against the will of the people of Afghanistan.”

Leaders of the militant group have said they want good international relations, particularly with China. Late Tuesday, a Taliban spokesman tweeted that a senior official from the group met with the Chinese ambassador in Kabul and “discussed the security of the Chinese embassy and diplomats, the current situation in Afghanistan, bilateral relations and China’s humanitarian assistance.”

‘Nothing Is Unchanged Forever’

Officials and state-run media in Beijing have softened the ground for closer ties, with the Communist Party-backed Global Times reporting that Chinese investment is likely to be “widely accepted” in Afghanistan. Another report argued the “the U.S. is in no position to meddle with any potential cooperation between China and Afghanistan, including on rare earths.”

“Some people stress their distrust for the Afghan Taliban — we want to say that nothing is unchanged forever,” Hua Chunying, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said last week. “We need to see the past and present. We need to listen to words and watch actions.”

For China, Afghanistan holds economic and strategic value. Leaders in Beijing have repeatedly called on the Taliban to prevent terrorists from plotting attacks against China, and view strong economic ties as key to ensuring stability. They also see an opportunity to invest in the country’s mineral sector, which can then be transported back on Chinese-financed infrastructure that includes about $60 billion of projects in neighboring Pakistan.

U.S. officials estimated in 2010 that Afghanistan had $1 trillion of unexplored mineral deposits, and the Afghan government has said they’re worth three times as much. They include vast reserves of lithium, rare earths and copper — materials critical to the global green-energy transition. But flimsy infrastructure in the landlocked country, along with poor security, have hampered efforts to mine and profit off the reserves.

The Taliban takeover comes at a critical time for the battery-materials supply chain: Producers are looking to invest in more upstream assets to secure lithium supply ahead of what Macquarie has called a “perpetual deficit.” The U.S., Japan and Europe have been seeking to cut their dependence on China for rare earths, which are used in items such as permanent magnets, though the moves are expected to take years and require millions of dollars of government support.

One major problem for the Taliban is a lack of skilled policy makers, according to Nematullah Bizhan, a former economic adviser to the finance ministry.

“In the past they appointed unqualified people into key specialized positions, such as the finance ministry and central bank,” said Bizhan, now a lecturer in public policy at the Australian National University. “If they do the same, that will have negative implications for the economy and for growth in Afghanistan.”

China Burned

Officially, Afghanistan’s economy has seen rapid growth in recent years as billions in aid flooded the country. But that expansion has fluctuated with donor assistance, showing “how artificial and thus unsustainable the growth has been,” according to a recent report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

China has been burned before. In the mid-2000s, investors led by state-owned Metallurgical Corp. of China Ltd. won an almost $3 billion bid to mine copper at Mes Aynak, near Kabul. It still hasn’t seen any output due to a series of delays ranging from security concerns to the discovery of historical artifacts, and there’s still no rail or power plant. MCC said in its 2020 annual report it was negotiating with the Afghan government about the mining contract after earlier saying it was economically unviable.

The Taliban are trying to show the world it has changed from its oppressive rule in the 1990s, saying it welcomes foreign investment from all countries and won’t allow terrorists to use Afghanistan as a base. Janan Mosazai, a former Afghan ambassador to both Pakistan and China who joined the private sector in 2018, sees “tremendous opportunities for the Afghan economy to take off” if the Taliban prove they’re serious about “walking the talk.”

But not many are optimistic. Reports have emerged of targeted killings, a massacre of ethnic minorities, violent suppression of protests and Taliban soldiers demanding to marry local women.

“Everyone’s just in crisis mode,” said Sarah Wahedi, a 26-year-old tech entrepreneur from Afghanistan who recently fled the country. “I don’t see the entrepreneurs getting back to business unless there’s a huge overhaul in the Taliban’s behavior. And there’s nothing I’ve seen that makes me think that’s going to happen.”

Updated: 8-26-2021

Inside The Hidden War Between The Taliban And ISIS

The group took aim at the Islamic State offshoot, earning it some support from world capitals. The Kabul airport bombings raise the specter of a longer, bloodier battle.

Two days before he was shot dead by the Taliban, Abu Omar Khorasani, a onetime leader of Islamic State in Afghanistan, sat slumped in a dingy Afghan prison interview room, waiting for his soon-to-be executioners.

Mr. Khorasani saw the Taliban’s advance as a harbinger for change. For years both organizations had sworn to rid Afghanistan of nonbelievers.

“They will let me free if they are good Muslims,” he told The Wall Street Journal in an interview.

When Taliban fighters seized Kabul last week, they took control of the prison, freed hundreds of inmates, and killed Mr. Khorasani and eight other members of his terror group.

Just as the Taliban has been fighting American coalition forces in Afghanistan, it has been waging a separate but parallel war against its rival Islamist group.

On one side are the Taliban, who have co-opted remnants of al Qaeda. On the other is the Afghan arm of Islamic State, known as ISIS-K, which has sought to incorporate parts of Afghanistan into a broader caliphate emanating from the Middle East.

The Taliban, assisted at times by other countries and U.S. coalition forces, were the winner in that effort, defense officials say. ISIS-K has been driven from its enclaves in Afghanistan and its fighters dispersed into hiding. There appeared to be little resistance as the Taliban swept across the country this month in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal.

On Thursday, in a reminder that the battle remains bloody, two explosions ripped through the crowds surrounding Kabul airport, where the Taliban and U.S. forces had been providing security to foreigners and locals seeking to flee.

At least 90 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members were killed, the Pentagon said. U.S. officials attributed the attacks to Islamic State’s regional affiliate. Islamic State claimed responsibility in a report posted by its Amaq news agency.

The continued presence of Islamic State in Afghanistan is one reason the Taliban could receive international support from countries, including the U.S., that view Islamic State as a profound threat.

Russia, China and Iran say they see Taliban as a mainstay of stability in Afghanistan—a reason they plan to keep their Kabul embassies open after the U.S. withdrawal.

During a news conference after Thursday’s attack, Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said the U.S. was relying on the Taliban to screen Afghans as they approached the airport.

“We use the Taliban as a tool to protect us as much as possible,” he said.

When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Taliban had few allies. The organization was reviled in the West for hosting al Qaeda terrorists, and opposed by regional powers including Russia and Iran.

Behind the appearance of solidarity between the Taliban and al Qaeda was an uneasy relationship, with many Taliban resenting Osama bin Laden for using the country as an operating base starting the late 1990s.

A computer recovered by the Journal in Kabul after the Taliban were ousted in 2001 showed that al Qaeda members often looked down on their Afghans allies as illiterate and incapable of understanding the Quran. Members of the Taliban in turn blamed some in al Qaeda for exacerbating problems with the West and contributing to their country’s isolation.

The Sept. 11 attacks created new fissures as leaders of both organizations were forced into hiding. Taliban founder Mullah Omar didn’t appear to know about the attacks in advance, and his relationship with bin Laden was chilly while both were in hiding in Pakistan, said Anne Stenersen, an academic researcher of Islamism and author of the book “Al-Qaida in Afghanistan.”

After U.S. forces killed bin Laden in 2011, documents recovered from his Pakistan hideout suggest scant contact between the al Qaeda leader and Omar, she said.

The Taliban and al Qaeda forged stronger bonds on the battlefield as both fought U.S. occupation forces.

While the Taliban took years to regroup after 2001, al Qaeda launched the first successful attacks on U.S. troops in the eastern province of Ghazni in 2004, using improvised explosive devices, said one former Taliban commander who fought U.S. and government troops there.

By 2009, the groups began to merge their commands, usually with al Qaeda members embedded alongside Taliban fighter groups, the former commander said. The combined forces of the two groups waged a terror campaign against the U.S.-backed government and coalition forces through hit-and-run attacks, bombings and targeted assassinations.

The dynamic shifted as al Qaeda sought a lower profile and Islamic State rose in prominence in 2015. The new group seized territory in Syria and Iraq, and invited fighters to join to create a province of “Khorasan,” a historical region encompassing parts of Afghanistan, Iran and former Soviet states of Central Asia.

The group found devotees among disaffected Taliban and militants from Central and South Asia, some of whom volunteered for service in Syria and Iraq. Two Islamic State enclaves appeared inside Afghanistan itself; one in the eastern province of Nangarhar and another in the northern province of Jowzjan.

The arrivals weren’t welcomed by the Taliban, which viewed Islamic State as an impediment. Islamic State had more ambitious global goals, while the Taliban sought to regain control of Afghanistan and had no interest in helping Islamist groups outside the country, said Mr. Khorasani in interviews conducted shortly before his death.

“The leadership of Daesh is independent, the goals of Daesh are independent,” Mr. Khorasani said, using an alternative name for Islamic State. “We have a global agenda and so when people ask who can really represent Islam and the whole Islamic community, of course we’re more attractive.”

Other nations began to view the Taliban as a potential bulwark against Islamic State’s global ambitions.

“There was huge concern about it and suddenly there was a desire to find some common ground with the Taliban,” said Bruce Hoffman, director of security studies at Georgetown University. “People began saying maybe they were a group we could reason with.”

Russia, which still officially classifies the Taliban as a terrorist organization, opened negotiations with the group more than five years ago, according to Ivan Safranchuk, a Central Asia expert and professor at Moscow State University. The rise of Islamic State in Afghanistan “became a motive to go big with these contacts,” he said.

The U.S. has accused Russia of providing arms to the Taliban, an allegation that Russia denies. Iran also has provided arms, according to U.S. intelligence. China separately hosted a high-level Taliban delegation as recently as this year.

Mr. Khorasani said he joined ISIS-K when it opened a chapter in Afghanistan. He rose to be regional governor—its then-highest ranking member—overseeing South Asia and the Far East.

Similar to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the group in Afghanistan became infamous for grisly execution videos, attacks on civilian targets, and use of extreme violence against newly conquered locals who opposed their rule.

In Nangarhar, where Mr. Khorasani served as governor, the group executed village elders and locals by seating them blindfolded on a pile of explosives on a hillside, which it detonated. The group later circulated a video recording of the execution.

Mr. Khorasani said those executed in the video were criminals.

He said attacks by Islamic State often benefited the Taliban, despite the enmity between the groups. He noted that a prison break in Jalalabad last year, organized by Islamic State and involving four suicide bombers and 11 gunmen, set free hundreds of prisoners from both the Taliban and Islamic State.

A showdown between the Taliban and Islamic State took place in Jowzjan in 2017, Mr. Khorasani said, after a commander with Taliban ties and his fighters swore allegiance to Islamic State founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. They were joined by a militant Uzbek group called the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Together they seized two valleys of the province and raised Islamic State flag over their statelet, Mr. Khorasani said.

The fighting that he described corresponds with U.S. accounts of the battles, in which the forces of the U.S., the Afghan government and the Taliban crushed Islamic State militants over the course of several months. Hundreds of Islamic State militants surrendered to government forces the following year.

In Nangarhar, Islamic State was similarly ground down by attacks by the U.S., Afghan government and the Taliban, Mr. Khorasani said. The U.S. dropped what is known as the Mother of All Bombs, or a MOAB, the most powerful conventional bomb in the U.S. military arsenal, to wipe out a Soviet-era cave complex controlled by Islamic State militants.

“Everyone supported the Taliban one way or another against us,” Mr. Khorasani said. “It’s no secret why they began to win.”

The U.S. said at the time that it killed more than 90 militants including several commanders in the bombing of the cave complex. Mr. Khorasani disputed that, saying the complex was evacuated at the time.

The rise of Islamic State as a new international enemy furthered the Taliban’s global diplomatic efforts, boosting a group that for years had sought to scrub itself of a terrorist taint, according to former officials of the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

The U.S. offered the Taliban international recognition by opening negotiations in Doha that led to the release last year of 5,000 inmates from Afghan prisons. Many of those former detainees flocked to the battlefield, strengthening Taliban forces, former Afghan government officials said.

As part of the agreement reached in Doha, the Taliban promised to prevent militant groups from attacking the West.

Mr. Khorasani said he left Nangarhar last year as the remnants of Islamic State fighters dispersed inside Afghanistan. He was arrested by U.S. and Afghan forces in a house outside Kabul in May 2020.

A judge sentenced him to death and 800 years in prison, he said. The Taliban got to him first.

Updated: 8-27-2021

U.S. Targets Islamic State Planner in Afghanistan Airstrike

Pentagon says extremist target likely killed; action follows suicide bombing outside Kabul airport.

The U.S. military said it conducted an airstrike against Islamic State in Afghanistan on Saturday, likely killing an extremist leader described as a planner for the organization.

The strike was its first known U.S. response to Thursday’s suicide bomb attack outside the airport in Kabul that killed 13 American troops and nearly 200 Afghan civilians.

Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East and Afghanistan, said it was an “over-the-horizon” strike, meaning the unmanned aerial vehicle used in the operation flew from a site outside of Afghanistan.

“Initial indications are that we killed the target,” Capt. Urban said, without naming the militant leader being targeted. There were no known civilian casualties, he said in a statement.

The airstrike took place in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province, Capt. Urban said.

Nangarhar is known as a home to ISIS-K, as Islamic State’s regional offshoot in Afghanistan is called, along with other regions in eastern Afghanistan.

The U.S. strike came as the military on Friday began shifting operations at Kabul’s international airport toward a final withdrawal, winding down the chaotic and bloody evacuation that airlifted more than 110,000 Americans, Afghans and others out of the country over the past two weeks.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of Afghans picked their way through the carnage left behind by the previous day’s deadly suicide bombing and gun attack outside the airport, in a last-ditch effort to flee Taliban rule. The death toll from the terrorist attack, one of the deadliest of the war, rose to nearly 200 Afghans, according to a senior health official. Thirteen U.S. service members were killed, and at least 15 were injured.

The Biden administration appeared poised to stick with its Tuesday deadline to pull the last of the nation’s forces out of Afghanistan and end the 20-year war there.

The airstrike Saturday was pre-emptive in nature, a U.S. official said, coming after intelligence showed that the individual was planning another attack. Since Thursday’s suicide bombing, U.S. officials have warned of other imminent threats.

“We believe this terrorist was involved in planning future attacks in Kabul,” the U.S. official said, without specifying how the U.S. reached that conclusion.

The U.S. had been watching the planner since before the Kabul airport attack, and launched the strike around 7:30 p.m. EDT Friday, the official said. U.S. personnel waited until the target was isolated from civilians before launching the strike, the official said.

The U.S. had vowed to retaliate against ISIS-K, meaning Saturday’s strike may not be the last U.S. operation. “I think he made clear yesterday that he does not want them to live on the Earth anymore,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said of President Biden’s desire for retribution.

As crowds queued up in the street outside the airport early Friday morning, dozens of Afghan men waded through open sewers lining the street to get closer to the gates.

“There was still blood and pieces of flesh and torn-off clothes on the ground,” said a 29-year-old man who lives near Kabul airport. “People stepped on it trying to get to the airport.”

The crowd was smaller than on Thursday, with many apparently wary in the wake of the attack. Later Friday, rumors spread of another explosion, sending people running away from the airport in all directions, leaving only Taliban fighters guarding the gates, according to a shopkeeper in the area. Taliban militants have since prevented would-be evacuees from getting near the airport, several witnesses said.

The coming days will be critical to U.S. military operations at the Kabul airport, where more than 5,000 troops and about 5,400 evacuees and others remain. U.S. military officials have said the U.S. will continue to evacuate Americans and Afghans at risk until the last day they are there, but hinted that the window is closing rapidly and the military is beginning to pack up its own people and gear.

“As we get closer…you’re going to see us begin to make those muscle movements to pull out our troops and some of our equipment,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday.

Mr. Biden’s national security advisers told him on Friday that another attack was likely.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat it at all,” a senior State Department official said. “Given the situation at the airport, given the events of the last 24 hours, it’s very, very challenging to get people in and get people out.”

Military commanders at the airport have spoken with the Taliban and taken extra precautions to mitigate the exposure to another attack, but Pentagon officials declined to provide details. The Thursday attack was claimed by Islamic State, but the lone suicide bomber got through multiple Taliban checkpoints. Pentagon officials declined to blame the Taliban for the security breach, however.

Thursday’s bloodshed prompted Republicans and some Democrats to ratchet up their criticism of the administration’s withdrawal plan. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) said Friday that Mr. Biden had lost the faith of the American people. “There will be a day of reckoning,” he said.

The president isn’t seeking the resignations of any members of his national security team, Ms. Psaki said in response to questions from reporters, and he retains confidence in Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The U.S. pressed on with its evacuation efforts following the attack, flying out more than 12,000 people in the 24-hour period ending early Friday morning, according to the White House. Since the airlift operation began on Aug. 14, a total of over 111,000 people have been evacuated, Pentagon officials said.

The U.S. was giving priority to getting the remaining Americans in Afghanistan out of the country, officials said. The State Department on Friday said it was in contact with about 500 Americans seeking assistance to evacuate.

On Friday night in Kabul, U.S. officials began informing partners that with limited exceptions, no more people trying to escape Taliban rule would be allowed into Hamid Karzai International Airport, according to people briefed on the plans. Defense officials delivered a clear message: The next time the airport opens it will be under new management, these people said.

The U.S. military and its allies were expected to continue evacuating those already inside the airport, but none outside, they said. The decision strands countless Afghans and an unknown number of foreigners who want to get out of the country.

Disorganized and lacking technical capacity, the Taliban have sought civilian assistance from Turkey to operate Kabul’s airport following the U.S. withdrawal, and on Friday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara was considering the request.

The Taliban, which has been manning checkpoints around the airport, criticized Washington for lax security that it said opened the way for the bombing. The Taliban have for years fought Islamic State as the two Islamist militant groups battled for supremacy in Afghanistan.

Habib Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, said Taliban intelligence officials were investigating the attack, but that the probe was still at a preliminary stage. The Pentagon on Friday said the attack comprised a single suicide bombing at the airport’s Abbey Gate, followed by gunfire. On Thursday, military officials had said a second explosion had taken place near a hotel nearby.

“We’re asking very detailed questions about the fight,” Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, the Pentagon’s deputy director of the joint staff for regional operations, told reporters. “That will continue to be collected.”

The Pentagon said specific, credible threats remained against the Kabul airlift. Mr. Kirby said thousands of Islamic State fighters had been released from prison since the Afghan government fell, and the Taliban took over the country’s jails.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials and activists Friday stepped up efforts to get as many Westerners and Afghans out of the country as they could. In recent days, access to the airport had been impeded by Taliban checkpoints and bureaucracy at the airport, leaving several evacuation flights to take off with significant numbers of empty seats.

Americans held tense negotiations with Taliban leaders to get approval to bring busloads of Afghans to the airport for flights to places such as Ukraine and Albania.

But the dangers at the airport also pushed Western organizers to turn toward other escape routes. More people trying to flee Taliban rule turned to the roads to Pakistan, which was preparing to accept a new surge of Afghan refugees.

While all Western nations have closed down their embassies and airlifted staff out of the country, Russia, which has backed the Taliban as a guarantor of stability for Afghanistan, has so far appeared determined to keep its embassy in Kabul running but has evacuated several hundred citizens.

Trusting The Taliban To Fight Islamic State

The Biden administration may be doing so. But it is far from the smartest policy to pursue and would put the lives of Afghans and Americans at even greater risk.

Reports from Washington and Kabul show the extent to which the Biden administration has been counting on the Taliban to facilitate the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan — and, apparently, to keep up the fight against IS-Khorasan, the local franchise of the Islamic State, after the Americans are gone.

The White House and Pentagon believe that the new rulers in Kabul share their eagerness for a speedy evacuation: a “common purpose,” in the words of Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the United States Central Command. There is also an assumption that the Taliban have an implacable enmity toward IS-Khorasan.

These postulates are the basis for information-sharing between U.S. officials and their Taliban counterparts to ensure smooth passage of American citizens, green-card holders and Afghan allies through militant-controlled checkpoints outside the Kabul airport.

Also, according to McKenzie, U.S. officials have for the past two weeks appraised Taliban commanders of threats to the airport, “so that they can actually do some searching out there for us.” The general has speculated that some attacks had been “thwarted” before Thursday’s twin blasts, which killed at least 75 Afghans and 13 American service personnel. IS-Khorasan has claimed responsibility for the attack, and the Taliban have condemned it.

But the assumptions underpinning the Biden administration’s decision-making in Afghanistan are, at the very least, highly questionable. It is not a given that the Taliban want a smooth U.S. withdrawal. Many in their ranks may be keen for a final chance to kill Americans, and will cheer the sight of their hated enemies badly bloodied as they scramble for the exits. The deaths of Afghans whom the Taliban regard as collaborators would not disturb their sleep.

The very nature of the Taliban makes trust untenable. That’s not the only reason it is dangerous to confide in the new rulers of Kabul. It is even more delusional to rely on them to keep IS-Khorasan and other terrorist groups at bay.

Biden and his officials seem to think the Taliban are an organization in the conventional sense, with a leadership that can make rational decisions and cadres that faithfully follow orders. Repeat after me: The Taliban are an assemblage of factions and alliances, with different — and sometimes conflicting — motivations and priorities.

It is certainly true that many in the leadership regard IS-Khorasan as an enemy. The two groups have had bloody encounters, with heavy casualties on both sides. Many Taliban regard the IS-Khorasan as uninvited outsiders, distinct from honored guests like al Qaeda. In turn, IS-Khorasan propaganda portrays the Taliban as having gone soft, having compromised with the hated Americans in order to regain power.

But beneath their mutual hostility is a more complex web of relationships. While the IS-Khorasan leadership may mostly be made up of foreigners who arrived in Afghanistan from places like Syria and Iraq, they have recruited heavily from ranks of the Taliban itself. Whatever the disposition of the men at the top, foot-soldiers on both sides are liable to regard each other as brothers-in-arms.

The ramifications of this are not hard to imagine. In the worst case scenario, a couple of Taliban at a checkpoint let an IS-Khorasan suicide bomber through, with ensuing carnage and chaos. More generally, assurances from the Taliban that they are helping to prevent attacks on the airport must be regarded as suspect.

Information given to them about Afghans can hardly be regarded safe or confidential. There are already indications that the group, despite their promises of amnesty for those who worked with the previous dispensation, are conducting house-to-house searches for precisely those people.

Whatever the Taliban might do with people they regard as collaborators, imagine their fate if those lists fall into the hands of IS-Khorasan. Any Americans and Afghan allies who cannot make it out of the country this weekend must be prepared for the worst, as indeed must the Biden administration. (If the Americans were naïve to hand over information, the British embassy staff were just plain reckless. In their haste to evacuate, they apparently left behind details of local employees for the Taliban to find.)

If the loyalties of the Taliban’s lower orders is suspect, that goes double for their allies. Some, like the Islamic Movement of Afghanistan, have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Some Pakistani jihadist groups maintain good relations with both sides.

Those mutual friends could come in handy if the Taliban, settling into power, decide to prioritize stability over conflict. Afghanistan’s history is replete with examples of extremist groups, upon taking Kabul, making expedient compromises with their political and ideological enemies. Even a short-lived cessation of hostilities between the Taliban and IS-Khorasan could have horrific consequences, for Afghans and the U.S. alike.

The Biden administration may think it can do business with the Taliban because it is an enemy of an enemy. But the Taliban and IS-Khorasan might make exactly the same calculation with respect to the U.S.

Once Enemies, U.S. And Taliban Find Common Ground Against ISIS

After fighting each other for 20 years, the U.S. and Taliban are suddenly finding their interests aligned against a common enemy — but their own bloody history stands in the way of eliminating the threat.

The blast at Kabul airport late Thursday, which killed 13 U.S. service members and at least 60 Afghans, showed the world the terrorism risks emanating from Afghanistan as American troops prepare to leave next week. After the attack, President Joe Biden vowed to strike against the extremist group ISIS-K while explaining why the U.S. is cooperating with the Taliban on the evacuation.

It’s “in the interest of the Taliban that in fact ISIS-K does not metastasize beyond what it is,” Biden said when asked why the U.S. depended on its longtime adversary to secure the perimeter of the airport. He added: “It’s not a matter of trust — it’s a matter of mutual self interest.”

Asked later if U.S.-Taliban cooperation would continue beyond the evacuation, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said “I don’t want to get ahead of where we are.”

The situation is awkward for both the U.S. and the Taliban. Each side wants to prevent Afghanistan from turning into a key staging ground for Islamic State fighters to plot global terrorist attacks, but they also find it politically unpalatable — if not impossible — to cooperate.

For the U.S., the Taliban’s treatment of women and political opponents has spurred calls for diplomatic isolation and financial sanctions. Yet that only risks weakening the Taliban and emboldening rival Islamic extremists, undermining Biden’s claim that the U.S. accomplished its mission of rooting out terrorism in Afghanistan.

At the same time, the Taliban face a dilemma: They want good relations with the international community to stabilize the country, but cooperating with the U.S. to fight Islamic State could spur a backlash that prompts more rank-and-file members to join the more violent extremist group.

“The situation is tough for the Taliban — what will they tell their cadres who have lost lives to this cause of throwing out the U.S. invaders?” said Kabir Taneja, author of “The ISIS Peril: The World’s Most Feared Terror Group and its Shadow on South Asia.”

“They want no U.S. presence in any of these places,” he added. “So in a sense, we are back to square one unless Biden lets this go. Whatever happens now in Afghanistan will have wider international consequences.”

Islamic State Khorasan, a local franchise of the group in Iraq and Syria, was formed largely by defectors from the Taliban and Tehrik-e-Taliban, a U.S.-designated terrorist group dedicated to overthrowing Pakistan’s government. While ISIS-K was nearly wiped out by both U.S. and Taliban strikes, the group is estimated to have about 2,000 fighters.

ISIS-K has been responsible for some of Afghanistan’s most lethal attacks in recent years, such as targeting schoolgirls, hospitals and even a maternity ward in Kabul, killing newly born babies and pregnant women.

‘Routed and Dispersed’

Biden on Thursday vowed to strike the assets, leadership and facilities of ISIS-K militants “at the place we choose, and the moment of our choosing.” He spoke about an “over-the-horizon” capability to fight terrorism that didn’t require a U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan.

Still, American success in doing that hinges largely on “how far away the horizon is” as well as the strength of local partners, according to William Wechsler, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and combating terrorism.

“In this case in Afghanistan our local partners have just been routed and dispersed,” Wechsler, now the director of Middle East programs at the Atlantic Council, told Bloomberg Television. “The longer term threat is quite troubling.”

Without a presence in landlocked Afghanistan, it’s unclear exactly how the U.S. would conduct strikes against terrorists. In May, the Wall Street Journal reported that Biden administration officials were looking to base forces and equipment in Central Asia and the Middle East, particularly as Pakistan — the major staging ground for the 2001 invasion — is now off limits.

Pakistan, China

The U.S. has a long history of conducting drone strikes against terrorists in Pakistan, a touchy subject that previously spurred protests in the country even though more than 70,000 Pakistanis were killed in attacks over the past few decades. Prime Minister Imran Khan this week cited the drone strikes “by our own allies” in explaining why he “won’t let our country to be used by the outsiders.”

While China also has an interest in preventing Afghanistan from becoming a hotbed of terrorism, leaders in Beijing have sided with close friend Pakistan in blocking the United Nations Security Council from listing groups targeting India as terrorists. That strategy has been risky: Chinese interests have been targeted by bombs in Pakistan, where it is financing more than $60 billion infrastructure and energy projects.

“China is perfectly okay with a level of instability in its other client, Pakistan,” said C. Christine Fair, a Georgetown University professor who has written numerous books on South Asia and terrorism. “What China wants is that none of these Islamist militants turn their guns on China.”

‘There’s Nothing The Americans Can Do’

The Taliban’s swift victory over the U.S.-backed Afghan army also served as a recruiting opportunity for ISIS-K, particularly as the lack of a central government gives room for militants to regroup. Moreover, intelligence-sharing between the former Afghan government and other nations is now halted at a time when many jailed militants have been set free.

ISIS-K sees Afghanistan as a “big opportunity space” particularly as the Taliban demonstrate they don’t yet have control of the country, said Greg Barton, chair in global Islamic politics at Deakin University in Australia.

“There’s nothing the Afghan Taliban can easily do about this,” Barton told Bloomberg Television. “And despite what President Biden says, there’s nothing the Americans can do.”

 

Updated: 8-29-2021

Crypto Can Alleviate The Financial Fallout For People In Afghanistan

As the political system collapses, so too does the financial one. Thus, more and more Afghan citizens will turn to crypto.

“One of the greatest tragedies in life,” according to author K. L. Toth, “is to lose your own sense of self and accept the version of you that is expected by everyone else.” For the people of Afghanistan — almost 40 million of them — the loss of self, as well as the loss of life, has become a brutal reality.

With the Taliban in control, chaos now reigns supreme. As businesses shut down, tens of thousands of people are desperately trying to flee the country. Moreover, as the political system collapses, so too does the financial one.

As CNBC’s MacKenzie Sigalos recently noted, Afghanistan is “a country running on legacy financial rails.” This painful reckoning, 20 years in the making, has resulted in a “nationwide cash shortage,” as well as “closed borders, a plunging currency, and rapidly rising prices of basic goods.” The people are desperate as the country quickly descends into the deepest depths of despair.

According to Sigalos, many of the country’s banks, obviously affected by the country’s swift demise, have been “forced to shutter their doors after running out of cash.” To make matters even worse, Western Union has suspended its services. As Sigalos writes, “even the centuries-old ‘hawala’ system — which facilitates cross-border transactions,” has been closed. The desperation is palpable. The people of Afghanistan require assistance.

Thankfully, grassroots nonprofits are doing their best to offer assistance. They are currently assisting some 20,000 Afghan citizens “still in the country waiting for United State authorities to process special immigrant visas.” This is where the importance of cryptocurrencies comes into play.

To raise enough funds to relocate Afghan families, nonprofits are currently accepting Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), Zcash (ZEC), Gemini dollar (GUSD), Balancer’s BAL, Yearn.finance’s YFI, Polygon’s MATIC, Synthetix Network Token (SNX) and Bancor Network Token (BNT).

For the critics of crypto, many of whom have questioned if it serves any purpose, the events in Afghanistan demonstrate how it can quite literally save lives. This might sound hyperbolic — but it’s not. Besides nonprofits, more and more Afghan citizens are turning to crypto. In the CNBC article, Sigalos spoke with a young Afghan who believes that “a Venezuela-type situation” is on the horizon. It may very well be. According to a Bloomberg report, as the Taliban seized control of Kabul in mid-August, the Afghan afghani — the country’s currency — dropped to an all-time low.

Venezuela may provide a telling blueprint for Afghanistan’s future. The South American country — ravaged by hyperinflation, political instability and United States sanctions — is in a dire state. With the country in the grip of an economic crisis, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether have shown their worth. According to Venezuela-based cryptocurrency consultant and Cointelegraph en Español contributor Jhonnatan Morales: “Many people are mining and trading Bitcoin not to acquire products, but to protect themselves from hyperinflation.”

Speaking of Venezuela, the nation’s government recently announced plans to remove six zeros from the bolivar. One needn’t be an economist to recognize that the Venezuelan government is doing everything in its power to save a currency that has been in a hyperinflation coma for years. Could the same fate await Afghanistan? If a government isn’t formed soon, don’t bet against it.

In Afghanistan, as the Taliban scramble to impose some political order, cryptocurrencies are also offering Afghans hope. In fact, across this region — in places like Lebanon and Palestine — cryptocurrencies are very much in demand. An increasing number of people from Lebanon and Palestine, all too familiar with depreciating currencies and political instability, are finding solace in crypto.

According to Arabian Business, as the Lebanese pound “continues its downward plummet and the economic situation worsens,” people are turning to crypto, both as an investment and as a means of transferring their funds abroad. Furthermore, according to the report, a “growing number of local small businesses, ranging from grocery stores to fashion boutiques,” are accepting payment in Bitcoin.

Again, for those who are quick to question why cryptocurrencies are necessary, Lebanon provides more than a few answers. Since 2019, the Lebanese pound has lost around 90% of its value. The political analyst and journalist Marwan Bishara, who has written extensively on the demise of Lebanon, told readers that the Lebanese people have become accustomed to the “shawarma paradox”: Two years ago, “the national sandwich” cost 5,000 Lebanese pounds, or about $2; today, it is priced at 20,000 pounds, less than $1. This may seem darkly humorous, but there is little humor in the demise of the nation’s currency, which is essentially worthless.

Some 120 miles away in Palestine, the independent state’s monetary authority is currently debating whether or not to issue a digital currency of its own. As Palestine seeks to gain further independence from Israeli rule, a digital currency would at least offer it a form of monetary independence.

With so many uninformed commentators fixated on the bad actors who use crypto, too few focus on the desperate people who use it to survive. This brings us back to Afghanistan, a volatile place plagued by acts of terrorism and political instability. The future of the country is uncertain, but cryptocurrencies are offering a lifeline to the millions of Afghans whose lives are very much on the line.

Updated: 8-30-2021

Last U.S. Troops Leave Afghanistan After Nearly 20 Years

U.S. forces withdraw, leaving behind more than 100 Americans and tens of thousands of America’s Afghan allies.

A U.S. military C-17 carried the last American troops out of Afghanistan on Monday, marking the formal end of the longest war in U.S. history but leaving between 100 and 200 Americans and tens of thousands of America’s Afghan allies to face a future of uncertainty and danger.

The final U.S. withdrawal came one minute before the Aug. 31 deadline set by President Biden, an exit under the persistent threat of terrorist attacks that already had claimed the lives of 13 American service members and more than 200 Afghans, who were killed in a suspected Islamic State suicide bombing at the Kabul airport on Thursday.

Despite assurances to the contrary by Mr. Biden and other top administration officials, Americans and Afghan allies were left behind, though the State Department couldn’t provide precise figures.

The U.S. earlier Monday said it was working to assist hundreds of Americans still there. Advocacy groups said as many as 60,000 Afghan interpreters, drivers and others who assisted the U.S. military, CIA and U.S. diplomatic personnel over the years, along with their families, remain in the country, at risk of retribution from the Taliban.

The last U.S. military personnel departed Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on a C-17 Globemaster cargo plane at 3:29 p.m. Eastern time, or 11:59 p.m. Kabul time, Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command said Monday.

“Tonight’s withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation but also the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after Sept. 11, 2001,” Gen. McKenzie said.

He added: “There is a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure. We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out.”

Gunfire erupted in Kabul after the last U.S. aircraft departed the city’s airport, as Taliban fighters unloaded volleys into the air to celebrate the moment when the last foreign soldier departed Afghanistan’s soil.

The Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, urged the Afghan capital’s residents not to be alarmed by the firing, which he described as the sound of joy. “Our country has gained its full independence, praise be to Allah,” he tweeted.

Some other Afghans were in a less celebratory mood. “It’s frightening that there won’t be any U.S. troops in Kabul,” said Habib, a 33-year-old resident. The Wall Street Journal agreed to identify him only by his first name.

The Taliban, the U.S.’s persistent enemy during the war, continued to coordinate with the U.S. military on the ground at the airport until the very end, Gen. McKenzie said.

The top military commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. C.D. Donahue, spoke with Taliban commanders just before the last forces left the airport, Gen. McKenzie said. He described the U.S.-Taliban relationship during the withdrawal process “very pragmatic and businesslike.”

Gen. Donahue, along with the top U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan, Ross Wilson, were among those on the final flight, Gen. McKenzie said.

Gen. Donahue and Mr. Wilson were the last two to step on the ramp of that flight, the C-17 cargo plane, which was among the last five jets to leave Kabul. Some of the last five planes flew to an air base in Kuwait, and others, including the one with Gen. Donahue and Mr. Wilson, flew to Al Udeid air base in Qatar, an official said.

As the Americans departed Afghanistan, the military flew a number of B-52 bombers, MQ-9 Reaper drones, AC-130 gunships and F-15 jet fighters overhead to guard against any possible attack. “We were closely watching,” the official said.

The last jet originally was expected to leave around 3 a.m. Kabul time on Aug. 31, but the departure was moved up owing to a number of factors, including weather, the official said. The last jet did not leave Afghan airspace until after midnight, the official said.

President George W. Bush launched what he called the first war of the 21st century to overthrow the Taliban, who had harbored the al Qaeda terrorists who planned and executed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The war continued through the presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, who both tried but failed to end it.

For Mr. Biden, the end of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan was a principal 2020 campaign promise and a position widely supported by American voters who long ago had tired of the war. But the chaotic withdrawal triggered the biggest foreign-policy crisis of Mr. Biden’s young presidency and prompted criticism of his decision to withdraw as well as the planning and execution of the operation.

Mr. Biden in a statement Monday afternoon said he would address the withdrawal Tuesday afternoon.

“I want to thank our commanders and the men and women serving under them for their execution of the dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled—in the early morning hours of August 31st, Kabul time—with no further loss of American lives,” Mr. Biden said in a statement.

Mr. Trump reached an agreement last year with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. forces by May 1, 2021, leaving an outline that Mr. Biden has said he felt he had to pursue.

Pentagon officials said Monday that the last cargo flights lifted out the thousands of U.S. troops deployed to the airport in Kabul to conduct an emergency airlift of the U.S. Embassy staff and thousands of Afghans, a task comparable to the evacuation of Saigon in 1975.

The last remaining U.S. diplomats in Kabul also left Monday, according to two U.S. officials, flying to Kuwait briefly before making their way back to the U.S. Most embassy staffers, who had been stationed at the airport in Kabul for more than two weeks, departed the country on Saturday and arrived back in the U.S. on Sunday, after a short stop in Qatar, one of the officials said.

Their departure marked the end of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Afghanistan, contravening months of assurances from the White House and State Department that the U.S. would maintain a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after the military withdrawal.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an appearance at the State Department that the U.S. would continue to support evacuation efforts, without going into detail. Mr. Blinken said there were between 100 and 200 Americans still in Afghanistan; earlier Monday, the State Department said there were more than 200 Americans still there.

Mr. Blinken said the U.S. could work with the Taliban if the group lives up to commitments it has made on allowing freedom of movement, women’s rights and counterterrorism, among other things. He said the U.S. would continue to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, although funds would flow through the United Nations and aid groups, rather than the new government in Kabul.

He also said that Turkey and Qatar were working to facilitate the reopening of Kabul airport, and that charter flights could operate once it was up and running.

The United Nations Security Council called Monday for steps by the Taliban to allow Afghan citizens and other nationals to exit from the country and prevent the use of the country by terrorists.

Russia and China abstained from the vote, objecting to the hasty drafting of the resolution and other details.

The military said it disabled or destroyed military equipment left at the airport, including about 70 mine-resistant vehicles, 27 Humvees and 73 aircraft. “We demilitarized those systems so that they’ll never be used again” Gen. McKenzie said.

In some cases, personnel drained oil and transmission fluid from vehicles or aircraft and ran their engines until they seized up, rendering them useless, an official said. On others, electronic systems were smashed, the official said.

Minutes after the U.S. left, Taliban forces entered the compound and began surveying what was left behind, witnesses said.

Travel to and from Kabul is likely to become more difficult. The Federal Aviation Administration said on Monday that the airport was now without air-traffic control and civilian aircraft were barred from landing in Afghanistan without prior approval.

Although it was the longest military conflict in U.S. history, Afghanistan frequently was a forgotten war, overshadowed by the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent rise of the Islamic State extremist group.

In all, 2,461 U.S. troops were killed, including 13 in the past week, in a U.S. campaign that began Oct. 7, 2001, as an effort to topple the Taliban for harboring al Qaeda. The toll was far greater for Afghans: As many as 69,000 troops and police, and an estimated 47,000 civilians, according to researchers from Brown University’s Costs of War project.

At the war’s peak, in 2010, the U.S. had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. The following year, the U.S. killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who had been living in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Through the years, U.S. forces—backed by other agencies, contractors and nongovernmental organizations—worked to build a democratic Afghan state defended by a 300,000-plus strong security force. But that government and those forces dissipated less than four months after the U.S. began its May withdrawal, enabling the Taliban to return to power.

The fact that Afghanistan fell within weeks to the very group the U.S. unseated represented a crushing defeat to many veterans and officials after a fight that spanned generations.

By U.S. government spending estimates, the war cost taxpayers $824.9 billion or, on average, $3.4 billion a month. Scholars such as those at Brown’s Costs of War project estimate that the war’s total costs, like caring for more than 20,000 injured veterans, have already risen into the trillions.

The military evacuation began in earnest after the collapse of the Afghan government and its security forces Aug. 15. U.S. commanders coordinated with Taliban commanders to secure the airport perimeter and control access after the initial days were marred by scenes of people mobbing the airport and clinging to departing aircraft, some falling to their deaths.

The airlift effort was nearly unprecedented in scale, scope and danger, moving more than 122,000 Americans, third-country citizens and Afghans in 15 days.

The evacuation also was one of its most deadly operations of the war for the U.S. military. On Thursday, 11 Marines, a soldier and a sailor were killed along with nearly 200 Afghans after a suicide bomber detonated himself, as troops were screening thousands of Afghans trying to get a flight out of the country. It was the deadliest day of the last decade for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

The threat of attacks lasted until the final hours of the U.S. withdrawal. The U.S. military said five rockets were fired at the airport Sunday evening. One of the rockets was intercepted by counter-missile weapons, while three landed outside the airport and another landed inside, though without causing any casualties.

Earlier that day, the Pentagon said it hit a vehicle aiming for the airport and laden with explosives. The U.S. military said it killed several suicide bombers inside the car, but many Afghans on the ground said the strike killed 10 civilians, including several children.

Recent polls have shown majorities of Americans approve of the decision to withdraw but disapprove of Mr. Biden’s handling of the exit.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted Aug. 27-28, after the suicide bombing, found 59% of adults disapproved of Mr. Biden’s handling of Afghanistan while 38% approved—down from 55% who approved in a late July poll.

Biden administration officials had intended to spend the month of August touting Mr. Biden’s accomplishments and building support for the bipartisan infrastructure package and the proposed $3.5 trillion budget plan. But the chaotic exit has overshadowed the president’s legislative agenda.

Democrats believe that priorities for voters will shift ahead of next year’s midterm elections, with issues like Covid-19 and the economy remaining a priority in their minds and frustrations with the Afghanistan exit dissipating over time. The party holds a narrow majority in the House and controls the evenly divided Senate.

Lawmakers from both parties have called for hearings on Capitol Hill once the withdrawal is complete. Republicans are pushing for those hearings to happen as soon as possible once Congress returns in mid-September.


This Is The Real Story Of The Afghan Biometric Databases Abandoned To The Taliban

By capturing 40 pieces of data per person—from iris scans and family links to their favorite fruit—a system meant to cut fraud in the Afghan security forces may actually aid the Taliban.

As the Taliban swept through Afghanistan in mid-August, declaring the end of two decades of war, reports quickly circulated that they had also captured US military biometric devices used to collect data such as iris scans, fingerprints, and facial images. Some feared that the machines, known as HIIDE, could be used to help identify Afghans who had supported coalition forces.

According to experts speaking to MIT Technology Review, however, these devices actually provide only limited access to biometric data, which is held remotely on secure servers. But our reporting shows that there is a greater threat from Afghan government databases containing sensitive personal information that could be used to identify millions of people around the country.

MIT Technology Review spoke to two individuals familiar with one of these systems, a US-funded database known as APPS, the Afghan Personnel and Pay System. Used by both the Afghan Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense to pay the national army and police, it is arguably the most sensitive system of its kind in the country, going into extreme levels of detail about security personnel and their extended networks. We granted the sources anonymity to protect them against potential reprisals.

Started in 2016 to cut down on paycheck fraud involving fake identities, or “ghost soldiers,” APPS contains some half a million records about every member of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, according to estimates by individuals familiar with the program. The data is collected “from the day they enlisted,” says one individual who worked on the system, and remains in the system forever, whether or not someone remains actively in service. Records could be updated, he added, but he was not aware of any deletion or data retention policy—not even in contingency situations, such as a Taliban takeover.

A presentation on the police recruitment process from NATO’s Combined Security Training Command–Afghanistan shows that just one of the application forms alone collected 36 data points. Our sources say that each profile in APPS holds at least 40 data fields.

These include obvious personal information such as name, date, and place of birth, as well as a unique ID number that connects each profile to a biometric profile kept by the Afghan Ministry of Interior.

But it also contains details on the individuals’ military specialty and career trajectory, as well as sensitive relational data such as the names of their father, uncles, and grandfathers, as well as the names of the two tribal elders per recruit who served as guarantors for their enlistment. This turns what was a simple digital catalogue into something far more dangerous, according to Ranjit Singh, a postdoctoral scholar at the nonprofit research group Data & Society who studies data infrastructures and public policy. He calls it a sort of “genealogy” of “community connections” that is “putting all of these people at risk.”

Afghanistan, Tunisia To Issue Sovereign Bonds In Bitcoin While Also Liberating Afghan Girls From Taliban (#GotBitcoin)

The information is also of deep military value—whether for the Americans who helped construct it or for the Taliban, both of which are “looking for networks” of their opponent’s supporters, says Annie Jacobsen, a journalist and author of First Platoon: A Story of Modern War in the Age of Identity Dominance.

But not all the data has such clear use. The police ID application form, for example, also appears to ask for recruits’ favorite fruit and vegetable. The Office of the Secretary of Defense referred questions about this information to United States Central Command, which did not respond to a request for comment on what they should do with such data.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they looked at the databases and started printing lists … and are now head-hunting former military personnel.”

While asking about fruits and vegetables may feel out of place on a police recruitment form, it indicates the scope of the information being collected and, says Singh, points to two important questions: What data is legitimate to collect to achieve the state’s purpose, and is the balance between the benefits and drawbacks appropriate?

In Afghanistan, where data privacy laws were not written or enacted until years after the US military and its contractors began capturing biometric information, these questions never received clear answers.

The resulting records are extremely comprehensive.

“Give me a field that you think we will not collect, and I’ll tell you you’re wrong,” said one of the individuals involved.

Then he corrected himself: “I think we don’t have mothers’ names. Some people don’t like to share their mother’s name in our culture.”

A Growing Fear Of Reprisals

The Taliban have stated publicly that they will not carry out targeted retribution against Afghans who had worked with the previous government or coalition forces. But their actions—historically and since their takeover—have not been reassuring.

On August 24, the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights told a special G7 meeting that her office had received credible reports of “summary executions of civilians and combat members of the Afghan national security forces.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they looked at the databases and started printing lists based on this … and now are head-hunting former military personnel,” one individual familiar with the database told us.

An investigation by Amnesty International found that the Taliban tortured and massacred nine ethnic Hazara men after capturing Ghazni province in early July, while in Kabul there have been numerous reports of Taliban going door to door to “register” individuals who had worked for the government or internationally funded projects.

Biometrics have played a role in such activity going back to at least 2016, according to local media accounts. In one widely reported incident from that year, insurgents ambushed a bus en route to Kunduz and took 200 passengers hostage, eventually killing 12, including local Afghan National Army soldiers returning to their base after visiting family. Witnesses told local police at the time that the Taliban used some kind of fingerprint scanner to check people’s identities.

It’s unclear what kinds of devices these were, or whether they were the same ones used by American forces to help establish “identity dominance”—the Pentagon’s goal of knowing who people were and what they had done.

US officials were particularly interested in tracking identities to disrupt networks of bomb makers, who were successfully evading detection as their deadly improvised explosive devices caused large numbers of casualties among American troops.

With biometric devices, military personnel could capture people’s faces, eyes, and fingerprints—and use that unique, immutable data to connect individuals, like bomb makers, with specific incidents. Raw data tended to go one way—from devices back to a classified DOD database—while actionable information, such as lists of people to “be on the lookout for”, was downloaded back onto the devices.

Incidents like the one in Kunduz seemed to suggest that these devices could access broader sets of data, something that the Afghan Ministry of Defense and American officials alike have repeatedly denied.

“The U.S. has taken prudent actions to ensure that sensitive data does not fall into the Taliban’s hands. This data is not at risk of misuse. That’s unfortunately about all I can say,” wrote Eric Pahon, a Defense Department spokesperson, in an emailed statement shortly after publication.
“They should also have thought of securing it”

But Thomas Johnson, a research professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, provides another possible explanation for how the Taliban may have used biometric information in the Kunduz attack.

Instead of their taking the data straight from HIIDE devices, he told MIT Technology Review, it is possible that Taliban sympathizers in Kabul provided them with databases of military personnel against which they could verify prints. In other words, even back in 2016, it may have been the databases, rather than the devices themselves, that posed the greatest risk.

Regardless, some locals are convinced that the collection of their biometric information has put them in danger. Abdul Habib, 32, a former ANA soldier who lost friends in the Kunduz attack, blamed access to biometric data for their deaths. He was so concerned that he too could be identified by the databases, that he left the army—and Kunduz province—shortly after the bus attack.

When he spoke with MIT Technology Review shortly before the fall of Kabul, Habib had been living in the capital for five years, and working in the private sector.

“When it was first introduced, I was happy about this new biometric system,” he said. “I thought it was something useful and the army would benefit from it, but now looking back, I don’t think it was a good time to introduce something like that. If they are making such a system, they should also have thought of securing it.”

And even in Kabul, he added, he hasn’t felt safe: “A colleague was told that ‘we will remove your biometrics from the system,’ but as far as I know, once it is saved, then they can’t remove it.”

When we last spoke to him just before the August 31 withdrawal deadline, as tens of thousands of Afghans surrounded the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in attempts to leave on an evacuation flight, Habib said that he had made it in. His biometric data was compromised, but with any luck, he would be leaving Afghanistan.

What Other Databases Exist?

APPS may be one of the most fraught systems in Afghanistan, but it is not unique—nor even the largest.

The Afghan government—with the support of its international donors—has embraced the possibilities of biometric identification. Biometrics would “help our Afghan partners understand who its citizens are … help Afghanistan control its borders; and … allow GIRoA [the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan] to have ‘identity dominance,’” as one American military official put it in a 2010 biometrics conference in Kabul.

Central to the effort was the Ministry of Interior’s biometric database, called the Afghan Automatic Biometric Identification System (AABIS), but often referred to simply as the Biometrics Center. AABIS itself was modeled after the highly classified Department of Defense biometric system called the Automatic Biometric Identification System, which helped identify targets for drone strikes.

According to Jacobsen’s book, AABIS aimed to cover 80% of the Afghan population by 2012, or roughly 25 million people. While there is no publicly available information on just how many records this database now contains, and neither the contractor managing the database nor officials from the US Defense Department have responded to requests for comment, one unconfirmed figure from the LinkedIn profile of its US-based program manager puts it at 8.1 million records.

AABIS was widely used in a variety of ways by the previous Afghan government. Applications for government jobs and roles at most projects required a biometric check from the MOI system to ensure that applicants had no criminal or terrorist background. Biometric checks were also required for passport, national ID, and driver’s license applications, as well as registrations for the country’s college entrance exam.

Another database, slightly smaller than AABIS, was connected to the “e-tazkira,” the country’s electronic national ID card. By the time the government fell, it had roughly 6.2 million applications in process, according to the National Statistics and Information Authority, though it is unclear how many applicants had already submitted biometric data.

Biometrics were also used—or at least publicized—by other government departments as well. The Independent Election Commission used biometric scanners in an attempt to prevent voter fraud during the 2019 parliamentary elections, with questionable results. In 2020, the Ministry of Commerce and Industries announced that it would collect biometrics from those who were registering new businesses.

Despite the plethora of systems, they were never fully connected to each other. An August 2019 audit by the US found that despite the $38 million spent to date, APPS had not met many of its aims: biometrics still weren’t integrated directly into its personnel files, but were just linked by the unique biometric number. Nor did the system connect directly to other Afghan government computer systems, like that of the Ministry of Finance, which sent out the salaries. APPS also still relied on manual data-entry processes, said the audit, which allowed room for human error or manipulation.

A Global Issue

Afghanistan is not the only country to embrace biometrics. Many countries are concerned about so-called “ghost beneficiaries”—fake identities that are used to illegally collect salaries or other funds. Preventing such fraud is a common justification for biometric systems, says Amba Kak, the director of global policy and programs at the AI Now institute and a legal expert on biometric systems.

“It’s really easy to paint this [APPS] as exceptional,” says Kak, who co-edited a book on global biometric policies. It “seems to have a lot of continuity with global experiences” around biometrics.

“Biometric ID as the only efficient means for legal identification is … flawed and a little dangerous.”
Amber Kak, AI Now

It’s widely recognized that having legal identification documents is a right, but “conflating biometric ID as the only efficient means for legal identification,” she says, is “flawed and a little dangerous.”

Kak questions whether biometrics—rather than policy fixes—are the right solution to fraud, and adds that they are often “not evidence-based.”

But driven largely by US military objectives and international funding, Afghanistan’s rollout of such technologies has been aggressive. Even if APPS and other databases had not yet achieved the level of function they were intended to, they still contain many terabytes of data on Afghan citizens that the Taliban can mine.

“Identity Dominance”—But By Whom?

The growing alarm over the biometric devices and databases left behind, and the reams of other data about ordinary life in Afghanistan, has not stopped the collection of people’s sensitive data in the two weeks between the Taliban’s entry into Kabul and the official withdrawal of American forces.

This time, the data is being collected mostly by well-intentioned volunteers in unsecured Google forms and spreadsheets, highlighting either that the lessons on data security have not yet been learned—or that they must be relearned by every group involved.

Singh says the issue of what happens to data during conflicts or governmental collapse needs to be given more attention. “We don’t take it seriously,” he says, “But we should, especially in these war-torn areas where information can be used to create a lot of havoc.”

Kak, the biometrics law researcher, suggests that perhaps the best way to protect sensitive data would be if “these kinds of [data] infrastructures … weren’t built in the first place.”

For Jacobsen, the author and journalist, it is ironic that the Department of Defense’s obsession with using data to establish identity might actually help the Taliban achieve its own version of identity dominance. “That would be the fear of what the Taliban is doing,” she says.

Ultimately, some experts say the fact that Afghan government databases were not very interoperable may actually be a saving grace if the Taliban do try to use the data. “I suspect that the APPS still doesn’t work that well, which is probably a good thing in light of recent events,” said Dan Grazier, a veteran who works at watchdog group the Project on Government Oversight, by email.

But for those connected to the APPS database, who may now find themselves or their family members hunted by the Taliban, it’s less irony and more betrayal.

“The Afghan military trusted their international partners, including and led by the US, to build a system like this,” says one of the individuals familiar with the system. “And now that database is going to be used as the [new] government’s weapon.”

Updated: 9-1-2021

Taliban Seeking To Expand Capabilities With U.S. Weaponry

Group claims to fly a Black Hawk helicopter; U.S. troops destroyed dozens of aircraft before vacating airport in Afghanistan.

U.S. troops destroyed or disabled nearly 100 combat vehicles and dozens of aircraft before vacating the airport in Kabul on Monday, in a last-ditch bid to deprive the Taliban of the use of some American military equipment.

But now that all U.S. forces have left Afghanistan, defense officials, lawmakers and experts who track the flow of weapons are watching closely to see what becomes of the acres of weaponry, vehicles and aircraft that were left behind, are still operable and can be of use to the Taliban or to arms smugglers.

Oryx, a blog that verifies military equipment using photos and videos, has identified 38 airplanes, 13 helicopters and seven unmanned aerial vehicles that the Taliban has captured in working order.

The total stockpile is likely much larger. The Taliban inherited thousands of U.S.-supplied assault weapons and military ground vehicles along with other technology and equipment including artillery pieces and night-vision goggles, another toll of the U.S. troop withdrawal and the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan National Security Forces.

This week, videos and photographs circulated on social media showing a U.S. UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flying in Afghanistan, the first such images hinting at new Taliban combat air capabilities.

A group claiming to represent the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s name for the country, was among those that published the video, with an accompanying message: “Our Air Force! At this time, the Islamic Emirate’s air force helicopters are flying over Kandahar city and patrolling the city.”

Another video showed a helicopter, trailing a Taliban flag, flying over a convoy that included what appeared to be seized U.S. military vehicles and equipment.

The Wall Street Journal couldn’t independently verify the authenticity of the videos, the location of the flights or the affiliation of the pilots. A Taliban spokesman said in a text message to the Journal that more details would be available later.

“Now, these are initial days,” said the spokesman, Suhail Shaheen. “When the new [government] is announced, more details about military hardware will be known.”

Washington spent more than $80 billion over 20 years on the Afghan military and police, U.S. government auditors have said, a portion of it in armaments. U.S. officials have said they have no reliable accounting of Taliban weapons seizures.

“We are not concerned with the loss of any significant technological or sensitive capability,” Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, said. “While seizing this equipment may be beneficial to the Taliban, it does not represent a threat to the U.S., allies or partners.”

Numerous images have emerged of Taliban fighters dressed helmet to boots in U.S. Special Forces gear, holding U.S.-made assault and sniper rifles.

After the completion of the U.S. troop pullout on Monday, videos and photos showed Taliban fighters at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul inspecting a haul of aircraft, including Chinook helicopters and a C-130 heavy-lift cargo plane.

Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, said Monday that his forces had disabled around 100 military ground vehicles and 73 aircraft. In some cases, personnel drained oil and transmission fluid from vehicles or aircraft and ran their engines until they seized up, rendering them useless, a U.S. official said. On others, electronic systems were smashed, the official said.

Military experts have played down the likelihood of any lasting value of functioning aircraft seized by the Taliban, since complicated maintenance operations have been performed by contractors who have now left the country.

“The ability for those birds to continue to fly in the long term is going to be very challenging,” said John Venable, a former Air Force officer who led combat flights in Afghanistan, now at the Heritage Foundation think tank. “It’s spare-parts reliant, and that flow was cut off.”

Taliban Fighters, Wielding American Weapons, Equipment And Uniforms, Inspected Equipment Left Behind Tuesday In Kabul.

Some analysts nonetheless emphasize that nations friendly to the Taliban could assist the group in helping extend the use of planes and helicopters by supplying parts, maintenance or pilots.

Some U.S.-trained Afghan air force pilots remain in the country, prompting concern that these airmen are at the controls of the recent helicopter flights, possibly under duress.

“You’re watching the worst kind of coercion take place right now,” Mr. Venable said. “If you take a gun and hold it to one of their family members, it’s, ‘Yeah, I’m going to fly that helicopter for you.’ ”

Last month, hundreds of Afghan service members flew to neighboring Uzbekistan on nearly 50 Afghan Air Force aircraft.

Bowing to Taliban pressure, the Uzbek government has told the U.S. that these pilots soon will have to leave the country.

A group of U.S. lawmakers including Mike Waltz (R., Fla.), a former Green Beret who served multiple tours in Afghanistan, is attempting to redirect these aircraft and pilots to Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley to support a possible fight led by Afghan forces that oppose Taliban rule.

The Taliban is expected to sell a portion of the arms and military equipment it has seized, as the U.S. freezes Taliban-related assets, arms analysts say. Studies including a 2012 paper by Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based defense research group, have identified longstanding arms smuggling routes between the Taliban and people in Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan.

“These newly seized weapons can follow existing routes to flow throughout Afghanistan and beyond its borders,” said Lauren Woods, the director of the Security Assistance Monitor, part of a Washington think tank. “Our weapons monitoring and inventory processes are insufficient to prevent them from being diverted and misused.”

However, the immediate hoarding of weapons may more adequately suit the Taliban’s near-term goal of consolidation, Mr. Waltz said.

“Having a lot of stuff equals power,” Mr. Waltz said. “I see them holding on to it and preparing for what’s to come.”

Vietnamese-Americans Organize To Aid Afghan Refugees

People who arrived in the U.S. after the Vietnam War see similarities in the plight of Afghans today.

Vietnamese-Americans who came to the U.S. as refugees more than 40 years ago and their children are mobilizing to help Afghans with whom they feel a kinship at the chaotic end of another lengthy war in Asia.

One group in Seattle is aiming to find 75 Vietnamese-American families to host arriving Afghan families. The president of an Ohio auto-parts company said he wants to hire newly arrived refugees. Others are organizing to provide housing and cash donations.

Participants said they see the loosely organized effort as a way to pay forward the help Americans offered them and their families decades ago.

“The situation in Afghanistan, it reminded Vietnamese refugees that many people helped them come here,” said Nam Loc Nguyen, a former refugee who evacuated Saigon in 1975.

In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, there were multiple evacuation efforts, including last-minute flights after the fall of Saigon in 1975 that some Vietnamese-Americans said reminds them of the recent situation in Kabul.

By 1979, a separate effort was launched under the auspices of the United Nations that ultimately led to the resettlement in the U.S. of more than 450,000 Vietnamese refugees.

Currently, thousands of Afghans who worked directly with the U.S. government during the war are being resettled under the government’s Special Immigrant Visa program. They will be treated as refugees and granted legal residency and will be eligible for citizenship. Meanwhile, they are eligible to receive government assistance, including housing and healthcare for several months. They can legally work almost immediately.

Others, including many who worked with American aid groups, media outlets and other nongovernmental agencies, also have been evacuated and may ultimately be resettled in the U.S. The Biden administration has said as many as 50,000 Afghans will be allowed to come to the U.S. without a visa, given permission to enter the country on humanitarian grounds.

Congress has allotted $500 million to help those migrants settle in the U.S., but they aren’t guaranteed government benefits and will likely rely more on community aid groups.

Mr. Nguyen, who spent 41 years working on refugee resettlement with Catholic Charities in Los Angeles, said he sent out calls for help starting the night Kabul fell to the Taliban. Via email lists and Vietnamese news websites, he encouraged former refugees to do whatever they could to help the tens of thousands of Afghans expected to be resettled in the coming weeks and months.

“I cried as I looked at the last flight out of the Kabul airport,” said the 77-year-old Mr. Nguyen, the only member of his immediate family who left Vietnam. “Memories of the last helicopter that left Saigon 46 years ago rushed back.”

Among those who responded to Mr. Nguyen’s pleas was Daklak Cao Do, president of Advanced Engineering Solutions Inc., a maker of auto and aerospace parts outside Dayton, Ohio. Mr. Do, 64, said he has offered to hire as many as 15 newly arrived Afghans and help sponsor their families.

“I saw the people who fell off the airplane and who were running after the airplane. It’s just what happened to my family,” said Mr. Do. Five years after the 1975 evacuation, Mr. Do fled Vietnam by boat along with his older brother and a 12-year-old nephew.

Mr. Do said he and his family ultimately went to Ohio, where a cousin had resettled. There they were sponsored by an American family who helped them find a place to live and helped him enroll in a community college and land a job at a local Bob Evans restaurant. He went on to earn a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Dayton.

In Seattle, Thanh Tan, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees who fled by boat in 1978, was watching the unfolding chaos in Kabul two weeks ago when a friend started a text group with a simple message: “We have to do something.”

The filmmaker and journalist said she and her friends decided to try to find 75 Vietnamese-American families to sponsor the same number of Afghan refugee families. Ms. Tan said their group, called the Viets4Afghans project, received dozens of inquiries almost immediately and is now working to connect families with refugee-resettlement agencies in the Seattle area.

To date, one family who reached out to Ms. Tan’s group has taken in an Afghan family, she said.

The group is also working on a longer-term effort aimed at providing financial aid and help refugees learn English and acclimate to American culture.

“I grew up in a Vietnamese community with a constant wave of refugees coming all the time and saw what it took,” Ms. Tan said.

 

Updated: 9-2-2021

For Afghans Abroad, Sending Money Home Is Harder Than Ever

Disruptions in Afghanistan’s money-moving apparatus constrain key source of income for ordinary Afghans.

Mustafa Barakzai thinks about his mother and siblings in Afghanistan at each meal.

Without the money he sends his family via Western Union Co. monthly, he said, they are running out of food. “How can I eat food when I have nine people back home who do not have?” said Mr. Barakzai, who lives in London.

Many Afghans get by with financial help from family members living abroad. But those remittances became much harder to send and receive in the weeks since the Taliban gained control of the country.

The Taliban’s rise to power triggered Afghanistan’s rapid disconnection from the global financial system. The U.S. Treasury Department halted the shipment of dollars to the country and blocked Taliban access to the Afghan central bank’s reserves, most of which are held overseas. Bank branches temporarily closed, and ATMs ran out of money.

Money-transfer companies Western Union and MoneyGram International Inc. resumed services in the country Thursday after suspending transfers for more than two weeks in part to avoid running afoul of U.S. sanctions. Even the hawaladars—regional payment brokers that many Afghans use to transmit funds—scaled back in response to a shortage of physical currency and security concerns, according to former Treasury officials and economists.

Disruptions in the country’s money-moving apparatus choked off a key source of income for ordinary Afghans. Some $790 million in remittances flowed into Afghanistan in 2020, according to an estimate from the World Bank, a sum that accounts for about 4% of the country’s gross domestic product. Remittances typically increase in a country during times of crisis.

“This is not a good development and is likely to dampen the insurance role that remittances often play in the wake of disasters,” said Dean Yang, a University of Michigan economics professor who studies the role of remittances in developing countries.

Sarah Alemi has tried both Western Union and MoneyGram to send about $1,000 from the San Francisco Bay Area to Afghanistan since the Taliban took control of the country.

Her nephew’s family in Kabul believes they will run out of food in September, she said. In a village outside the capital city, Ms. Alemi’s aunt is running low on the insulin required to keep her diabetes in check.

“It’s our obligation to help as a human being,” Ms. Alemi said. “But what can we do now?”

Western Union said it would offer no-fee transfers into the country between Sept. 3 and Sept. 17. Outbound money transfers via both Western Union and MoneyGram remain suspended.

Both companies had said they needed assurances that their partner banks in the country have adequate liquidity to process their transfers. The partner banks facilitate payments for the money-transfer services, receiving wires and disbursing cash to recipients at branches.

Western Union and MoneyGram also said they would follow guidance from the Biden administration on transactions to and from Afghanistan.

A Treasury spokesperson said the department continues to answer questions from financial institutions, including inquiries about the kind of transactions that might violate sanctions. The spokesperson said Treasury has informed financial institutions that transactions involving personal remittances are allowed because they are considered humanitarian aid.

Bank branches in Kabul began to reopen last week with limits on withdrawals, easing the immediate currency crunch. But Afghanistan’s central bank is likely to continue to run into problems supplying local banks with cash as long as it remains cut off from the global financial system, said Ahmad Shah Mobariz, an economics Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arkansas who studies the economic-development programs of his native Afghanistan.

Outside of Afghanistan’s urban centers, many remittances flow through hawala networks—webs of brokers who exchange funds without physically moving money. Experts expect this trust-based payment system, which is typically cheaper than banks or money-transfer services, to take on an increasingly important role if mainstream financial institutions continue to keep their distance.

Here’s how it works: A customer in New York City gives $1,200 to a local hawala dealer to send to a cousin in Kabul. The hawaladar in New York contacts a counterpart in Kabul, perhaps a relative or other trusted business partner, who delivers the equivalent in the local currency to the cousin.

The New York hawaladar then owes her counterpart in Kabul $1,200. There is no single repayment method. The debt may be settled when a transaction goes in the opposite direction. It could also be repaid in physical goods. Many hawaladars operate import-export businesses.

Some hawaladars outside Afghanistan have limited their dealings in the country. Currency shortages have hawala dealers concerned that their Afghan counterparts won’t be able to complete transfers, said Amit Sharma, a former senior adviser on terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury who worked with hawala networks. They also are worried that the Taliban could impose restrictions that would prevent them from getting repaid, he said.

“If I can’t be sure that I am money good with my correspondent hawala dealer in Kabul, then I am less inclined to go ahead and send money there just because I don’t know if that money will come back,” Mr. Sharma said.

Last month, Qadeer Popal and his wife tried to send about $150 from Canada to relatives in Afghanistan to help cover the rising costs of household staples. They tried Western Union and the local hawaladar, but both said they had paused sending funds to Afghanistan.

He even considered sending money to his wife’s cousin in Pakistan and having him cross the border. “That’s how bad the situation is,” Mr. Popal said.

Mr. Barakzai can now send about £500, the equivalent of $689 or about 55,000 afghanis, to keep his family afloat for the next month. When money-transfer services were suspended, he said he talked to his mother about selling valuables, maybe some of her jewelry, until he could find a way to help her and other relatives leave the country.

“It’s just been an absolute nightmare,” Mr. Barakzai said.

The U.S. Military Got Some Things Right In Afghanistan

Despite the mistakes, leaders on the ground made progress toward literacy, military cooperation and other goals.

Amid the anger and finger-pointing at the end of America’s flawed 20-year mission in Afghanistan, it’s easy to conclude that it was all a failure from start to finish. While I broadly agree that the effort failed overall — due to mistakes the U.S. made in training the Afghan army, the Taliban’s nimble performance at the end, Pakistan’s support for the Taliban and Afghan leadership failures — certain positive outcomes are worth remembering.

Obviously, for 20 years we prevented another devastating attack on the U.S. from the ungoverned wilderness of Afghanistan. And after a 10-year manhunt, we killed Osama bin Laden. But there were also other, more subtle successes.

The most important of these is literacy. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, most of the population couldn’t read, especially girls and women, who had been denied the benefits of even primary school education. NATO struggled to train the Afghan army, because the soldiers couldn’t read maintenance manuals, understand the wording on a map or communicate in writing on command and control networks. In 2009, as the supreme allied commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, I found myself often complaining in planning sessions about how illiteracy made our job difficult.

At one meeting, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who at the time was a presidential envoy to both Afghanistan and Pakistan, lost patience with my complaining. “Hey Admiral,” he said, “stop whining and teach them to read.”

So we did. The basic literacy program we created, working with various humanitarian organizations, became foundational to the NATO training mission. Nongovernmental organizations were also teaching reading, under our protection, in villages, districts and provinces around the country. Eventually, we instructed hundreds of thousands of Afghan recruits in the basics of reading, and our efforts contributed to a significant improvement in literacy in the country. It may be the most lasting thing we did to help Afghanistan.

The U.S. military also helped advance the rights of girls and women. Several generations of female Afghans were provided education, medical care, the ability to work outside the home and other opportunities — leading to profound shifts in Afghan culture, especially in the bigger population centers. Will these changes survive the return of the Taliban? It’s hard to say.

The world has yet to see the real policy direction of “Taliban 2.0.” But I’d bet on at least an improvement over 2001. And if the Taliban leaders of today are serious about entering the international system, accessing the global financial networks, and gaining diplomatic recognition from most countries, they will have to show some progress in this key area.

A third success in Afghanistan was the military’s learning to rise above the frustrations of coalition warfare and work cooperatively with other countries. At the time I led NATO operations in Afghanistan, more than 50 countries had troops on the ground, ranging in numbers from the massive U.S. presence to a small detachment from tiny Luxembourg. Troops from Central America, Mongolia and New Zealand fought bravely and well.

The situation was far from perfect, and many countries restricted how NATO could use their forces. But most militaries were engaged in true combat operations, and their soldiers fought and died alongside ours. Some countries had more combat deaths per capita than the U.S. had.

Of the roughly 2,000 letters of condolence I signed over four years to the families of NATO troops killed in action, about 700 went to non-American servicemen and women. Special operations in particular was a multi-national effort, as was intelligence gathering. The lessons we learned in Afghanistan about coalition operations will be part of U.S. military doctrine for decades to come.

Measured against all that the U.S. got wrong, perhaps these achievements provide small comfort. In retrospect, it’s clear we built the wrong kind of Afghan army, underestimated the Taliban and overestimated Afghan leadership. We overshot the goal on attempting to build a new Afghan nation, failed to prevent cross-border sanctuaries for the enemies of that effort, and staged a messy and humiliating final exit. Even so, the U.S. military has learned some things that will prepare it to face the next foreign crisis.

Cardano Founder Says Crypto Will Be Vital To Afghani Fight Against Taliban

Afghans will leverage crypto assets as a store of value and to preserve financial privacy amid the Taliban’s dramatic insurgence, predicts Charles Hoskinson.

Cardano founder Charles Hoskinson believes that digital assets may play an important role in offering financial privacy to Afghani citizens following the withdrawal of US forces.

In a Wednesday interview with CNBC, Charles Hoskinson, a co-founder of Ethereum and founder of Cardano, expressed his expectation that “cryptocurrencies will play a larger role in Afghanistan […] in the war for and against the Taliban forces.”

Hoskinson highlighted the need for financial privacy-preserving technologies in Afghanistan, stating:

“Afghan’s digital life is now under scrutiny, the last two decades are being reviewed by a regime that if you expressed your opinion in ways that don’t fit their regressive viewpoints you are now under threat of harassment, imprisonment or even death.”

While concrete presumptions around how cryptocurrencies will benefit Afghan society were scant, adopting digital assets would supposedly allow Afghan citizens to evade the Taliban’s attempts to track personal spending or seize their crypto assets.

Using digital assets as a store of value could also provide protection against inflation, with some analysts speculating that Afghanistan may soon face a crisis of hyperinflation.

While many local bank accounts have been frozen at the behest of international aid organizations and the United States, Western Union also suspended services in the country until further notice last week — limiting the means available to Afghani citizens seeking to transfer their assets internationally.

“Western Union understands the urgent need people have to receive funds, and we are committed to resuming operations for our customers in Afghanistan as conditions permit,” the company said in a statement.

There are already many organizations that have shifted to accept cryptocurrencies in an effort to facilitate funding of basic needs and medical care for the Afghan people.

Crypto adoption appears to have been rising in Afghanistan over recent years, with the country currently ranking 20th according to Chainalysis’ 2021 Global Crypto Adoption Index.

Other developing countries including Venezuela, Vietnam, the Philippines and neighbor Pakistan also dominate the adoption rankings, suggesting digital assets are seeing significant adoption in countries with poor financial infrastructure.


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Bitcoin’s Volatility Should Burn Investors. It Hasn’t

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The Ultimate Resource On “PriFi” Or Private Finance

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Iran’s Central Banks Acquires Bitcoin Even Though Lagarde Says Central Banks Will Not Hold Bitcoin

Bitcoin To Come To America’s Oldest Bank, BNY Mellon

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Apple Should Launch Own Crypto Exchange, RBC Analyst Says

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Bitcoin Bounces Off Top of Recent Price Range

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Investors Piling Into Overvalued Crypto Funds Risk A Painful Exit

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Miami Mayor Says City Employees Should Be Able To Take Their Salaries In Bitcoin

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Bitcoin Accounts Offer 3-12% Rates In A Low-Interest World

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Social Trading Platform eToro Ended 2020 With $600M In Revenue

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Harvard, Yale, Brown Endowments Have Been Buying Bitcoin For At Least A Year

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To Understand Bitcoin, Just Think of It As A Faith-Based Asset

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Andreas Antonopoulos And Others Debunk Bitcoin Double-Spend FUD

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Bitcoin Steady As Analysts Say Getting Back To $40,000 Is Key

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Voyager Crypto App Review

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Bitcoin Slides Under $35K Despite Biden Unveiling $1.9 Trillion Stimulus

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Ex-Ripple CTO Can’t Remember Password To Access $240M In Bitcoin

Financial Advisers Are Betting On Bitcoin As A Hedge

ECB President Christine Lagarde (French Convict) Says, Bitcoin Enables “Funny Business.”

German Police Shut Down Darknet Marketplace That Traded Bitcoin

Bitcoin Miner That’s Risen 1,400% Says More Regulation Is Needed

Bitcoin Rebounds While Leaving Everyone In Dark On True Worth

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What Crypto Users Need Know About Changes At The SEC

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Retail Has Arrived As Paypal Clears $242M In Crypto Sales Nearly Double The Previous Record

Bitcoin’s Slide Dents Price Momentum That Dwarfed Everything

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The Case For And Against Investing In Bitcoin

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Mega-Bullish News For Bitcoin As Elon Musk Says, “Pay Me In Bitcoin” And Biden Says, “Ignore Budget Deficits”!

Bitcoin Price Briefly Surpasses Market Cap Of Tencent

Broker Touts Exotic Bitcoin Bet To Squeeze Income From Crypto

Broker Touts Exotic Bitcoin Bet To Squeeze Income From Crypto

Tesla’s Crypto-Friendly CEO Is Now The Richest Man In The World

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Bitcoin’s Bulls Should Fear Its Other Scarcity Problem

Ether Follows Bitcoin To Record High Amid Dizzying Crypto Rally

Retail Investors Are Largely Uninvolved As Bitcoin Price Chases $40K

Bitcoin Breaches $34,000 As Rally Extends Into New Year

Social Media Interest In Bitcoin Hits All-Time High

Bitcoin Price Quickly Climbs To $31K, Liquidating $100M Of Shorts

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FinCEN Wants US Citizens To Disclose Offshore Crypto Holdings of $10K+

Governments Will Start To Hodl Bitcoin In 2021

Crypto-Linked Stocks Extend Rally That Produced 400% Gains

‘Bitcoin Liquidity Crisis’ — BTC Is Becoming Harder To Buy On Exchanges, Data Shows

Bitcoin Looks To Gain Traction In Payments

BTC Market Cap Now Over Half A Trillion Dollars. Major Weekly Candle Closed!!

Elon Musk And Satoshi Nakamoto Making Millionaires At Record Pace

Binance Enables SegWit Support For Bitcoin Deposits As Adoption Grows

Santoshi Nakamoto Delivers $24.5K Christmas Gift With Another New All-Time High

Bitcoin’s Rally Has Already Outlasted 2017’s Epic Run

Gifting Crypto To Loved Ones This Holiday? Educate Them First

Scaramucci’s SkyBridge Files With SEC To Launch Bitcoin Fund

Samsung Integrates Bitcoin Wallets And Exchange Into Galaxy Phones

HTC Smartphone Will Run A Full Bitcoin Node (#GotBitcoin?)

HTC’s New 5G Router Can Host A Full Bitcoin Node

Bitcoin Miners Are Heating Homes Free of Charge

Bitcoin Miners Will Someday Be Incorporated Into Household Appliances

Musk Inquires About Moving ‘Large Transactions’ To Bitcoin

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Megan Thee Stallion Gives Away $1 Million In Bitcoin

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Bitcoin Shortage As Wall Street FOMO Turns BTC Whales Into ‘Plankton’

Bitcoin Tops $22,000 And Strategists Say Rally Has Further To Go

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Andreas M. Antonopoulos And Simon Dixon Say Don’t Buy Bitcoin!

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US Gov Is Bitcoin’s Last Remaining Adversary, Says Messari Founder

$1,200 US Stimulus Check Is Now Worth Almost $4,000 If Invested In Bitcoin

German Bank Launches Crypto Fund Covering Portfolio Of Digital Assets

World Governments Agree On Importance Of Crypto Regulation At G-7 Meeting

Why Some Investors Get Bitcoin So Wrong, And What That Says About Its Strengths

It’s Not About Data Ownership, It’s About Data Control, EFF Director Says

‘It Will Send BTC’ — On-Chain Analyst Says Bitcoin Hodlers Are Only Getting Stronger

Bitcoin Arrives On Wall Street: S&P Dow Jones Launching Crypto Indexes In 2021

Audio Streaming Giant Spotify Is Looking Into Crypto Payments

BlackRock (Assets Under Management $7.4 Trillion) CEO: Bitcoin Has Caught Our Attention

Bitcoin Moves $500K Around The Globe Every Second, Says Samson Mow

Pomp Talks Shark Tank’s Kevin O’leary Into Buying ‘A Little More’ Bitcoin

Bitcoin Is The Tulipmania That Refuses To Die

Ultimate Resource On Ethereum 2.0

Biden Should Integrate Bitcoin Into Us Financial System, Says Niall Ferguson

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Bitcoin Price Sets New Record High Above $19,783

You Call That A Record? Bitcoin’s November Gains Are 3x Stock Market’s

Bitcoin Fights Back With Power, Speed and Millions of Users

Guggenheim Fund ($295 Billion Assets Under Management) Reserves Right To Put Up To 10% In Bitcoin Trust!

Exchanges Outdo Auctions For Governments Cashing In Criminal Crypto, Says Exec

Coinbase CEO: Trump Administration May ‘Rush Out’ Burdensome Crypto Wallet Rules

Bitcoin Plunges Along With Other Coins Providing For A Major Black Friday Sale Opportunity

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US Company Now Lets Travelers Pay For Passports With Bitcoin

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Bitcoin Is Back Trading Near Three-Year Highs

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Market Is Proving Bitcoin Is ‘Ultimate Safe Haven’ — Anthony Pompliano

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Bitcoin Resurgence Leaves Institutional Acceptance Unanswered

Bitcoin’s Rivalry With Gold Plus Millennial Interest Gives It ‘Considerable’ Upside Potential: JPMorgan

WordPress Content Can Now Be Timestamped On Ethereum

PayPal To Offer Crypto Payments Starting In 2021 (A-Z) (#GotBitcoin?)

As Bitcoin Approaches $13,000 It Breaks Correlation With Equities

Crypto M&A Surges Past 2019 Total As Rest of World Eclipses U.S. (#GotBitcoin?)

How HBCUs Are Prepping Black Students For Blockchain Careers

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Bennie Overton’s Story About Our Corrupt U.S. Judicial, Global Financial Monetary System And Bitcoin

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Mad Money’s Jim Cramer Will Invest 1% Of Net Worth In Bitcoin Says, “Gold Is Dangerous”

State-by-state Licensing For Crypto And Payments Firms In The Us Just Got Much Easier (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin (BTC) Ranks As World 6Th Largest Currency

Pomp Claims He Convinced Jim Cramer To Buy Bitcoin

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Mastercard Releases Platform Enabling Central Banks To Test Digital Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)

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The Assets That Matter Most In Crypto (#GotBitcoin?)

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Bitcoin Community Highlights Double-Standard Applied Deutsche Bank Epstein Scandal

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An Israeli Blockchain Startup Claims It’s Invented An ‘Undo’ Button For BTC Transactions

After Years of Resistance, BitPay Adopts SegWit For Cheaper Bitcoin Transactions

US Appeals Court Allows Warrantless Search of Blockchain, Exchange Data

Central Bank Rate Cuts Mean ‘World Has Gone Zimbabwe’

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China Discovers 4% Of Its Reserves Or 83 Tons Of It’s Gold Bars Are Fake (#GotBitcoin?)

Former Legg Mason Star Bill Miller And Bloomberg Are Optimistic About Bitcoin’s Future

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Australia Post Office Now Lets Customers Buy Bitcoin At Over 3,500 Outlets

Anomaly On Bitcoin Sidechain Results In Brief Security Lapse

SEC And DOJ Charges Lobbying Kingpin Jack Abramoff And Associate For Money Laundering

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Activists Document Police Misconduct Using Decentralized Protocol (#GotBitcoin?)

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Industry Leaders Launch PayID, The Universal ID For Payments (#GotBitcoin?)

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The Queens Politician Who Wants To Give New Yorkers Their Own Crypto

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Trump Orders Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin To Destroy Bitcoin Just Like They Destroyed The Traditional Economy

US Drug Agency Failed To Properly Supervise Agent Who Stole $700,000 In Bitcoin In 2015

Layer 2 Will Make Bitcoin As Easy To Use As The Dollar, Says Kraken CEO

Bootstrapping Mobile Mesh Networks With Bitcoin Lightning

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BitPay’s Prepaid Mastercard Launches In US to Make Crypto Accessible (#GotBitcoin?)

Germany’s Deutsche Borse Exchange To List New Bitcoin Exchange-Traded Product

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US Pentagon Created A War Game To Fight The Establishment With BTC (#GotBitcoin?)

JPMorgan Provides Banking Services To Crypto Exchanges Coinbase And Gemini (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Advocates Cry Foul As US Fed Buying ETFs For The First Time

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3 Reasons For The Bitcoin Price ‘Halving Dump’ From $10K To $8.1K

Bitcoin Outlives And Outlasts Naysayers And First Website That Declared It Dead Back In 2010

Hedge Fund Pioneer Turns Bullish On Bitcoin Amid ‘Unprecedented’ Monetary Inflation

Antonopoulos: Chainalysis Is Helping World’s Worst Dictators & Regimes (#GotBitcoin?)

Survey Shows Many BTC Holders Use Hardware Wallet, Have Backup Keys (#GotBitcoin?)

Iran Ditches The Rial Amid Hyperinflation As Localbitcoins Seem To Trade Near $35K

Buffett ‘Killed His Reputation’ by Being Stupid About BTC, Says Max Keiser (#GotBitcoin?)

Meltem Demirors: “Bitcoin Is Not A F*Cking Systemic Hedge If You Hold Your Bitcoin At A Financial Institution”

Blockfolio Quietly Patches Years-Old Security Hole That Exposed Source Code (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Won As Store of Value In Coronavirus Crisis — Hedge Fund CEO

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Crypto Exchange Offers Credit Lines so Institutions Can Trade Now, Pay Later (#GotBitcoin?)

Zoom Develops A Cryptocurrency Paywall To Reward Creators Video Conferencing Sessions (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Startup Purse.io And Major Bitcoin Cash Partner To Shut Down After 6-Year Run

Open Interest In CME Bitcoin Futures Rises 70% As Institutions Return To Market

Square’s Users Can Route Stimulus Payments To BTC-Friendly Cash App

$1.1 Billion BTC Transaction For Only $0.68 Demonstrates Bitcoin’s Advantage Over Banks

Bitcoin Could Become Like ‘Prison Cigarettes’ Amid Deepening Financial Crisis

Bitcoin Holds Value As US Debt Reaches An Unfathomable $24 Trillion

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US Intelligence To Study What Would Happen If U.S. Dollar Lost Its Status As World’s Reserve Currency (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Miner Manufacturers Mark Down Prices Ahead of Halving

Privacy-Oriented Browsers Gain Traction (#GotBitcoin?)

‘Breakthrough’ As Lightning Uses Web’s Forgotten Payment Code (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Starts Quarter With Price Down Just 10% YTD vs U.S. Stock’s Worst Quarter Since 2008

Bitcoin Enthusiasts, Liberal Lawmakers Cheer A Fed-Backed Digital Dollar

Crypto-Friendly Bank Revolut Launches In The US (#GotBitcoin?)

The CFTC Just Defined What ‘Actual Delivery’ of Crypto Should Look Like (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto CEO Compares US Dollar To Onecoin Scam As Fed Keeps Printing (#GotBitcoin?)

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Bitcoin, Not Governments Will Save the World After Crisis, Tim Draper Says

Crypto Analyst Accused of Photoshopping Trade Screenshots (#GotBitcoin?)

QE4 Begins: Fed Cuts Rates, Buys $700B In Bonds; Bitcoin Rallies 7.7%

Mike Novogratz And Andreas Antonopoulos On The Bitcoin Crash

Amid Market Downturn, Number of People Owning 1 BTC Hits New Record (#GotBitcoin?)

Fatburger And Others Feed $30 Million Into Ethereum For New Bond Offering (#GotBitcoin?)

Pornhub Will Integrate PumaPay Recurring Subscription Crypto Payments (#GotBitcoin?)

Intel SGX Vulnerability Discovered, Cryptocurrency Keys Threatened

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Countries That First Outlawed Crypto But Then Embraced It (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Maintains Gains As Global Equities Slide, US Yield Hits Record Lows

HTC’s New 5G Router Can Host A Full Bitcoin Node

India Supreme Court Lifts RBI Ban On Banks Servicing Crypto Firms (#GotBitcoin?)

Analyst Claims 98% of Mining Rigs Fail to Verify Transactions (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockchain Storage Offers Security, Data Transparency And immutability. Get Over it!

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Coinbase Wallet Now Allows To Send Crypto Through Usernames (#GotBitcoin)

New ‘Simpsons’ Episode Features Jim Parsons Giving A Crypto Explainer For The Masses (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto-currency Founder Met With Warren Buffett For Charity Lunch (#GotBitcoin?)

Witches Love Bitcoin

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Coinbase Becomes Direct Visa Card Issuer With Principal Membership

Bitcoin Achieves Major Milestone With Half A Billion Transactions Confirmed

Jill Carlson, Meltem Demirors Back $3.3M Round For Non-Custodial Settlement Protocol Arwen

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Billionaire Investor Tim Draper: If You’re a Millennial, Buy Bitcoin

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US Deficit Will Be At Least 6 Times Bitcoin Market Cap — Every Year (#GotBitcoin?)

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H.R.5635 – Virtual Currency Tax Fairness Act of 2020 ($200.00 Limit) 116th Congress (2019-2020)

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A Blockchain-Secured Home Security Camera Won Innovation Awards At CES 2020 Las Vegas

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Google Suspends MetaMask From Its Play App Store, Citing “Deceptive Services”

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Coinbase CEO Armstrong Wins Patent For Tech Allowing Users To Email Bitcoin

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At A Refugee Camp In Iraq, A 16-Year-Old Syrian Is Teaching Crypto Basics

Bitclub Scheme Busted In The US, Promising High Returns From Mining

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The Ultimate List of Bitcoin Developments And Accomplishments

Charities Put A Bitcoin Twist On Giving Tuesday

Family Offices Finally Accept The Benefits of Investing In Bitcoin

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Bitcoin ‘Carry Trade’ Can Net Annual Gains With Little Risk, Says PlanB

Max Keiser: Bitcoin’s ‘Self-Settlement’ Is A Revolution Against Dollar

Blockchain Can And Will Replace The IRS

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Jack Dorsey: You Can Buy A Fraction Of Berkshire Stock Or ‘Stack Sats’

Bitcoin Price Skyrockets $500 In Minutes As Bakkt BTC Contracts Hit Highs

Bitcoin’s Irreversibility Challenges International Private Law: Legal Scholar

Bitcoin Has Already Reached 40% Of Average Fiat Currency Lifespan

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Unicef To Accept Donations In Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Former Prosecutor Asked To “Shut Down Bitcoin” And Is Now Face Of Crypto VC Investing (#GotBitcoin?)

Switzerland’s ‘Crypto Valley’ Is Bringing Blockchain To Zurich

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Bitcoin Developer Amir Taaki, “We Can Crash National Economies” (#GotBitcoin?)

Veteran Crypto And Stocks Trader Shares 6 Ways To Invest And Get Rich

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SEC Enters Settlement Talks With Alleged Fraudulent Firm Veritaseum (#GotBitcoin?)

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Attorneys Seek Bank Of Ireland Execs’ Testimony Against OneCoin Scammer (#GotBitcoin?)

OpenLibra Plans To Launch Permissionless Fork Of Facebook’s Stablecoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Tiny $217 Options Trade On Bitcoin Blockchain Could Be Wall Street’s Death Knell (#GotBitcoin?)

Class Action Accuses Tether And Bitfinex Of Market Manipulation (#GotBitcoin?)

Sharia Goldbugs: How ISIS Created A Currency For World Domination (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Eyes Demand As Hong Kong Protestors Announce Bank Run (#GotBitcoin?)

How To Securely Transfer Crypto To Your Heirs

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Crypto News From The Spanish-Speaking World (#GotBitcoin?)

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[PSA] Non-genuine Trezor One Devices Spotted (#GotBitcoin?)

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Bitmain Ramps Up Power And Efficiency With New Bitcoin Mining Machine (#GotBitcoin?)

Ledger Live Now Supports Over 1,250 Ethereum-Based ERC-20 Tokens (#GotBitcoin?)

Miss Finland: Bitcoin’s Risk Keeps Most Women Away From Cryptocurrency (#GotBitcoin?)

Artist Akon Loves BTC And Says, “It’s Controlled By The People” (#GotBitcoin?)

Ledger Live Now Supports Over 1,250 Ethereum-Based ERC-20 Tokens (#GotBitcoin?)

Co-Founder Of LinkedIn Presents Crypto Rap Video: Hamilton Vs. Satoshi (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Insurance Market To Grow, Lloyd’s Of London And Aon To Lead (#GotBitcoin?)

No ‘AltSeason’ Until Bitcoin Breaks $20K, Says Hedge Fund Manager (#GotBitcoin?)

NSA Working To Develop Quantum-Resistant Cryptocurrency: Report (#GotBitcoin?)

Custody Provider Legacy Trust Launches Crypto Pension Plan (#GotBitcoin?)

Vaneck, SolidX To Offer Limited Bitcoin ETF For Institutions Via Exemption (#GotBitcoin?)

Russell Okung: From NFL Superstar To Bitcoin Educator In 2 Years (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Miners Made $14 Billion To Date Securing The Network (#GotBitcoin?)

Why Does Amazon Want To Hire Blockchain Experts For Its Ads Division?

Argentina’s Economy Is In A Technical Default (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockchain-Based Fractional Ownership Used To Sell High-End Art (#GotBitcoin?)

Portugal Tax Authority: Bitcoin Trading And Payments Are Tax-Free (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin ‘Failed Safe Haven Test’ After 7% Drop, Peter Schiff Gloats (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Dev Reveals Multisig UI Teaser For Hardware Wallets, Full Nodes (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Price: $10K Holds For Now As 50% Of CME Futures Set To Expire (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Realized Market Cap Hits $100 Billion For The First Time (#GotBitcoin?)

Stablecoins Begin To Look Beyond The Dollar (#GotBitcoin?)

Bank Of England Governor: Libra-Like Currency Could Replace US Dollar (#GotBitcoin?)

Binance Reveals ‘Venus’ — Its Own Project To Rival Facebook’s Libra (#GotBitcoin?)

The Real Benefits Of Blockchain Are Here. They’re Being Ignored (#GotBitcoin?)

CommBank Develops Blockchain Market To Boost Biodiversity (#GotBitcoin?)

SEC Approves Blockchain Tech Startup Securitize To Record Stock Transfers (#GotBitcoin?)

SegWit Creator Introduces New Language For Bitcoin Smart Contracts (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Earn Bitcoin Rewards For Postmates Purchases (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Price ‘Will Struggle’ In Big Financial Crisis, Says Investor (#GotBitcoin?)

Fidelity Charitable Received Over $100M In Crypto Donations Since 2015 (#GotBitcoin?)

Would Blockchain Better Protect User Data Than FaceApp? Experts Answer (#GotBitcoin?)

Just The Existence Of Bitcoin Impacts Monetary Policy (#GotBitcoin?)

What Are The Biggest Alleged Crypto Heists And How Much Was Stolen? (#GotBitcoin?)

IRS To Cryptocurrency Owners: Come Clean, Or Else!

Coinbase Accidentally Saves Unencrypted Passwords Of 3,420 Customers (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Is A ‘Chaos Hedge, Or Schmuck Insurance‘ (#GotBitcoin?)

Bakkt Announces September 23 Launch Of Futures And Custody

Coinbase CEO: Institutions Depositing $200-400M Into Crypto Per Week (#GotBitcoin?)

Researchers Find Monero Mining Malware That Hides From Task Manager (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Dusting Attack Affects Nearly 300,000 Addresses (#GotBitcoin?)

A Case For Bitcoin As Recession Hedge In A Diversified Investment Portfolio (#GotBitcoin?)

SEC Guidance Gives Ammo To Lawsuit Claiming XRP Is Unregistered Security (#GotBitcoin?)

15 Countries To Develop Crypto Transaction Tracking System: Report (#GotBitcoin?)

US Department Of Commerce Offering 6-Figure Salary To Crypto Expert (#GotBitcoin?)

Mastercard Is Building A Team To Develop Crypto, Wallet Projects (#GotBitcoin?)

Canadian Bitcoin Educator Scams The Scammer And Donates Proceeds (#GotBitcoin?)

Amazon Wants To Build A Blockchain For Ads, New Job Listing Shows (#GotBitcoin?)

Shield Bitcoin Wallets From Theft Via Time Delay (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockstream Launches Bitcoin Mining Farm With Fidelity As Early Customer (#GotBitcoin?)

Commerzbank Tests Blockchain Machine To Machine Payments With Daimler (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Historical Returns Look Very Attractive As Online Banks Lower Payouts On Savings Accounts (#GotBitcoin?)

Man Takes Bitcoin Miner Seller To Tribunal Over Electricity Bill And Wins (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Computing Power Sets Record As Over 100K New Miners Go Online (#GotBitcoin?)

Walmart Coin And Libra Perform Major Public Relations For Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Judge Says Buying Bitcoin Via Credit Card Not Necessarily A Cash Advance (#GotBitcoin?)

Poll: If You’re A Stockowner Or Crypto-Currency Holder. What Will You Do When The Recession Comes?

1 In 5 Crypto Holders Are Women, New Report Reveals (#GotBitcoin?)

Beating Bakkt, Ledgerx Is First To Launch ‘Physical’ Bitcoin Futures In Us (#GotBitcoin?)

Facebook Warns Investors That Libra Stablecoin May Never Launch (#GotBitcoin?)

Government Money Printing Is ‘Rocket Fuel’ For Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin-Friendly Square Cash App Stock Price Up 56% In 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

Safeway Shoppers Can Now Get Bitcoin Back As Change At 894 US Stores (#GotBitcoin?)

TD Ameritrade CEO: There’s ‘Heightened Interest Again’ With Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Venezuela Sets New Bitcoin Volume Record Thanks To 10,000,000% Inflation (#GotBitcoin?)

Newegg Adds Bitcoin Payment Option To 73 More Countries (#GotBitcoin?)

China’s Schizophrenic Relationship With Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

More Companies Build Products Around Crypto Hardware Wallets (#GotBitcoin?)

Bakkt Is Scheduled To Start Testing Its Bitcoin Futures Contracts Today (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Network Now 8 Times More Powerful Than It Was At $20K Price (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Exchange BitMEX Under Investigation By CFTC: Bloomberg (#GotBitcoin?)

“Bitcoin An ‘Unstoppable Force,” Says US Congressman At Crypto Hearing (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Network Is Moving $3 Billion Daily, Up 210% Since April (#GotBitcoin?)

Cryptocurrency Startups Get Partial Green Light From Washington

Fundstrat’s Tom Lee: Bitcoin Pullback Is Healthy, Fewer Searches Аre Good (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Lightning Nodes Are Snatching Funds From Bad Actors (#GotBitcoin?)

The Provident Bank Now Offers Deposit Services For Crypto-Related Entities (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Could Help Stop News Censorship From Space (#GotBitcoin?)

US Sanctions On Iran Crypto Mining — Inevitable Or Impossible? (#GotBitcoin?)

US Lawmaker Reintroduces ‘Safe Harbor’ Crypto Tax Bill In Congress (#GotBitcoin?)

EU Central Bank Won’t Add Bitcoin To Reserves — Says It’s Not A Currency (#GotBitcoin?)

The Miami Dolphins Now Accept Bitcoin And Litecoin Crypt-Currency Payments (#GotBitcoin?)

Trump Bashes Bitcoin And Alt-Right Is Mad As Hell (#GotBitcoin?)

Goldman Sachs Ramps Up Development Of New Secret Crypto Project (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockchain And AI Bond, Explained (#GotBitcoin?)

Grayscale Bitcoin Trust Outperformed Indexes In First Half Of 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

XRP Is The Worst Performing Major Crypto Of 2019 (GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Back Near $12K As BTC Shorters Lose $44 Million In One Morning (#GotBitcoin?)

As Deutsche Bank Axes 18K Jobs, Bitcoin Offers A ‘Plan ฿”: VanEck Exec (#GotBitcoin?)

Argentina Drives Global LocalBitcoins Volume To Highest Since November (#GotBitcoin?)

‘I Would Buy’ Bitcoin If Growth Continues — Investment Legend Mobius (#GotBitcoin?)

Lawmakers Push For New Bitcoin Rules (#GotBitcoin?)

Facebook’s Libra Is Bad For African Americans (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Firm Charity Announces Alliance To Support Feminine Health (#GotBitcoin?)

Canadian Startup Wants To Upgrade Millions Of ATMs To Sell Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Trump Says US ‘Should Match’ China’s Money Printing Game (#GotBitcoin?)

Casa Launches Lightning Node Mobile App For Bitcoin Newbies (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Rally Fuels Market In Crypto Derivatives (#GotBitcoin?)

World’s First Zero-Fiat ‘Bitcoin Bond’ Now Available On Bloomberg Terminal (#GotBitcoin?)

Buying Bitcoin Has Been Profitable 98.2% Of The Days Since Creation (#GotBitcoin?)

Another Crypto Exchange Receives License For Crypto Futures

From ‘Ponzi’ To ‘We’re Working On It’ — BIS Chief Reverses Stance On Crypto (#GotBitcoin?)

These Are The Cities Googling ‘Bitcoin’ As Interest Hits 17-Month High (#GotBitcoin?)

Venezuelan Explains How Bitcoin Saves His Family (#GotBitcoin?)

Quantum Computing Vs. Blockchain: Impact On Cryptography

This Fund Is Riding Bitcoin To Top (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Surge Leaves Smaller Digital Currencies In The Dust (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Exchange Hits $1 Trillion In Trading Volume (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Breaks $200 Billion Market Cap For The First Time In 17 Months (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Make State Tax Payments In Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Religious Organizations Make Ideal Places To Mine Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Goldman Sacs And JP Morgan Chase Finally Concede To Crypto-Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Heading For Fifth Month Of Gains Despite Price Correction (#GotBitcoin?)

Breez Reveals Lightning-Powered Bitcoin Payments App For IPhone (#GotBitcoin?)

Big Four Auditing Firm PwC Releases Cryptocurrency Auditing Software (#GotBitcoin?)

Amazon-Owned Twitch Quietly Brings Back Bitcoin Payments (#GotBitcoin?)

JPMorgan Will Pilot ‘JPM Coin’ Stablecoin By End Of 2019: Report (#GotBitcoin?)

Is There A Big Short In Bitcoin? (#GotBitcoin?)

Coinbase Hit With Outage As Bitcoin Price Drops $1.8K In 15 Minutes

Samourai Wallet Releases Privacy-Enhancing CoinJoin Feature (#GotBitcoin?)

There Are Now More Than 5,000 Bitcoin ATMs Around The World (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Get Bitcoin Rewards When Booking At Hotels.Com (#GotBitcoin?)

North America’s Largest Solar Bitcoin Mining Farm Coming To California (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin On Track For Best Second Quarter Price Gain On Record (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Hash Rate Climbs To New Record High Boosting Network Security (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Exceeds 1Million Active Addresses While Coinbase Custodies $1.3B In Assets

Why Bitcoin’s Price Suddenly Surged Back $5K (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Lightning Comes To Apple Smartwatches With New App (#GotBitcoin?)

E-Trade To Offer Crypto Trading (#GotBitcoin)

US Rapper Lil Pump Starts Accepting Bitcoin Via Lightning Network On Merchandise Store (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitfinex Used Tether Reserves To Mask Missing $850 Million, Probe Finds (#GotBitcoin?)

21-Year-Old Jailed For 10 Years After Stealing $7.5M In Crypto By Hacking Cell Phones (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Shop With Bitcoin On Amazon Using Lightning (#GotBitcoin?)

Afghanistan, Tunisia To Issue Sovereign Bonds In Bitcoin, Bright Future Ahead (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Faithful Say Blockchain Can Remake Securities Market Machinery (#GotBitcoin?)

Disney In Talks To Acquire The Owner Of Crypto Exchanges Bitstamp And Korbit (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Exchange Gemini Rolls Out Native Wallet Support For SegWit Bitcoin Addresses (#GotBitcoin?)

Binance Delists Bitcoin SV, CEO Calls Craig Wright A ‘Fraud’ (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Outperforms Nasdaq 100, S&P 500, Grows Whopping 37% In 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Passes A Milestone 400 Million Transactions (#GotBitcoin?)

Future Returns: Why Investors May Want To Consider Bitcoin Now (#GotBitcoin?)

Next Bitcoin Core Release To Finally Connect Hardware Wallets To Full Nodes (#GotBitcoin?)

Major Crypto-Currency Exchanges Use Lloyd’s Of London, A Registered Insurance Broker (#GotBitcoin?)

How Bitcoin Can Prevent Fraud And Chargebacks (#GotBitcoin?)

Why Bitcoin’s Price Suddenly Surged Back $5K (#GotBitcoin?)

Zebpay Becomes First Exchange To Add Lightning Payments For All Users (#GotBitcoin?)

Coinbase’s New Customer Incentive: Interest Payments, With A Crypto Twist (#GotBitcoin?)

The Best Bitcoin Debit (Cashback) Cards Of 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

Real Estate Brokerages Now Accepting Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Ernst & Young Introduces Tax Tool For Reporting Cryptocurrencies (#GotBitcoin?)

How Will Bitcoin Behave During A Recession? (#GotBitcoin?)

Investors Run Out of Options As Bitcoin, Stocks, Bonds, Oil Cave To Recession Fears (#GotBitcoin?)

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