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Taliban fighters watch over a checkpoint outside Abbey Gate at the Kabul airport. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty

Prior to the fall of Kabul, President Biden dismissed the idea that he could trust the Taliban. "Is that a serious question?" he asked. "No, I do not."

Why it matters: He may not trust them, but as his administration has worked to evacuate Americans and Afghans, the entire mission has hinged on cooperation with a militant group that the U.S. spent years fighting.

  • Biden had stressed in recent days that the Taliban were letting U.S. citizens and, less consistently, Afghan allies pass through checkpoints. That's crucial, because the Taliban control the flow of traffic to the airport.
  • He said Thursday night that he had no regrets about allowing the Taliban to control the airport's perimeter because it was in the group's "self-interest" to prevent ISIS-K attacks and facilitate the U.S. evacuations.
  • And CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie noted that security coordination with the Taliban will be essential in preventing another attack. Both Biden and McKenzie said there's no evidence of collusion between ISIS-K and the Taliban.

Biden’s cooperation with the Taliban has been a source of some consternation on Capitol Hill, particularly after a Politico report that the U.S. provided the Taliban with a list of names of evacuating Afghans.

  • The move was reportedly intended to facilitate their travel to the airport but could ultimately make them Taliban targets.
  • Asked about the report, Biden said the U.S. did tell the Taliban to let certain groups of Afghans through, but he wasn’t aware of any such lists.

What's next: The U.S. and its allies — most of which have already suspended their evacuations — are relying on the Taliban to continue to allow Afghans and their own citizens to leave the country beyond Aug. 31.

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the Taliban have provided assurances to that effect, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of the need for diplomacy with the Taliban to ensure they follow through.

Yes, but: Signals from the Taliban have been mixed at best. Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid lamented the ongoing brain drain on Tuesday and said "we are not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave."

Go deeper: U.S. allies scramble to leave Afghanistan

Go deeper

Oct 19, 2021 - World

WHO, UNICEF to launch polio vaccine drive in Afghanistan

Afghan boys return to their homes after attending school in Chashma Dozak area of Badghis province on Oct. 16. Photo: Hoshang Hashimi/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) will launch a house-to-house vaccination campaign to inoculate children in Afghanistan against polio, the UN announced Monday.

Why it matters: The campaign, which begins Nov. 8 with the Taliban's backing, is the first such vaccine drive in over three years to reach all Afghan children, the press release noted.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

NYC firefighters union urges members to defy mayor's vaccine mandate

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The president of New York City's firefighters union told reporters Wednesday that he's advised unvaccinated members to ignore Mayor Bill de Blasio's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers, per Reuters.

Why it matters: Under de Blasio's order that's due to take effect Friday, unvaccinated city employees would be placed on unpaid leave. But Uniformed Firefighters Association head Andrew Ansbro said he told members that "if they choose to remain unvaccinated, they must still report for duty," according to Reuters.

4 hours ago - Health

Study: Common antidepressant guards against COVID hospitalization

A COVID-19 intensive Care Unit in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on May 27, 2021. Photo: Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The readily available antidepressant fluvoxamine significantly reduced COVID-related hospitalizations, according to a large study published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The clinical trial suggests that a cheap, readily available drug could dramatically reduce serious illness and death when prescribed early.