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Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. special representative on Afghanistan reconciliation, in Washington, D.C., in May. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States' special representative on Afghanistan reconciliation, warned the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday that any government formed by force will not be recognized internationally, according to AP.

Why it matters: Nine out of 34 Afghan provincial capitals have fallen to the Taliban in recent days as the U.S. military withdraws, raising fears that the Afghan military will be unable to hold off the insurgent group.

  • Khalilzad and the Biden administration are attempting to pressure the Taliban to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with the Afghan government to stabilize the country and prevent further violence and civilian causalities.
  • The capitals of Farah, Baghlan and Badakhshan provinces fell to the Taliban on Tuesday, according to the New York Times.

The big picture: Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar called for sanctions against Taliban leadership in response to the provincial seizures, saying they violated commitments that the group gave to the U.S. in 2020.

  • “The world community should come together to stop Taliban attacks on cities. This is a threat to international peace and security, not just a threat to Afghanistan,” Atmar told the Wall Street Journal.
  • “Attacks on cities will have destabilizing consequences for the region and the international community—not only by sending refugees but also with the arrival of more foreign fighters to Afghanistan, which will pave the ground for other terrorist groups to come.”

The U.S. intelligence community has warned that the Afghan government could collapse as soon as next year as the Taliban's battlefield offensive grows.

  • President Biden has called those assessments "wrong," saying the Afghan military outnumbers the Taliban and is better equipped.
  • On Monday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the Afghan military would need to halt the Taliban's encroachment.
    • “These are their military forces, these are their provincial capitals, their people to defend and it’s really going to come down to the leadership that they’re willing to exude here at this particular moment,” he said.

Go deeper: State Department urges U.S. citizens to leave Afghanistan

Go deeper

Updated Oct 16, 2021 - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.

Oct 14, 2021 - World

Pakistan Airlines halts flights to Kabul citing "heavy-handedness" of Taliban

Passengers board a Pakistan International Airlines flight in Kabul on Sept 13. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

Pakistan International Airlines on Thursday halted flights to Kabul after what it called "heavy-handedness" of Taliban authorities, Reuters reports.

Driving the news: The suspension comes after the Taliban ordered PIA to slash ticket prices, warning that the company's Afghan operations could be blocked if it refused to do so, per Reuters.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP senator calls for senility test for aging leaders

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a physician, told me during an "Axios on HBO" interview that he favors cognition tests for aging leaders of all three branches of government.

Why it matters: Wisdom comes with age. But science also shows that we lose something. And much of the world is now run by old people — including President Biden, 78 ... Speaker Pelosi, 81 ...  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, 70 ... and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 79.