Welcome back to Axios World.
- Many thanks to Zach for steering the ship last week. It’s good to be back.
- We’re setting off tonight from Afghanistan, with stops in Haiti, Bulgaria, Eswatini and more (1,948 words, 7 minutes).
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Welcome back to Axios World.
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An Afghan soldier inside Bagram Air Base after U.S. forces pulled out. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty.
President Biden addressed the country this afternoon to defend his withdrawal strategy in Afghanistan as the Taliban continues to gain ground and after U.S. troops abandoned their largest base under cover of darkness.
What he's saying: Biden set an Aug. 31 deadline to end U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, and he denied that a Taliban takeover of Kabul was "inevitable" after America left.
Driving the news: U.S. troops pulled out of Bagram Air Base near Kabul in the middle of the night late last week without notifying the Afghan troops set to take control of it (the Pentagon says the Afghans knew the departure was coming, just not when).
In his remarks, Biden repeatedly put the onus for what happens next on "the Afghan people" and the government in Kabul, which he urged to "come together" and to find a way to share power with the Taliban.
Biden said the original goals of the U.S. invasion had long since been achieved, and thus America's exit was "quite frankly overdue." He added: "We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build.”
What to watch: The U.S. is not the only country that's concerned about a potential implosion in Afghanistan.
A crowd gathers outside a Port-au-Prince police station where assassination suspects are being held. Photo: Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP via Getty
Haitian officials said today that four suspects in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse were killed in a gunfight today and six more were arrested, at least one of whom is a U.S. citizen.
The state of play: The government is describing the assailants as foreign “mercenaries” but has filled in only fragments of the picture in terms of how Wednesday morning’s attack was carried out, by whom and why.
The big picture: Haiti was already in the midst of a political crisis.
Be smart: You often hear the headline that Haiti is the “poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,” but the history matters, writes Axios Today host Niala Boodhoo, who has lived in and reported from Haiti.
Zuma addresses supporters at his home three days before surrendering to police. Photo: Mlungisi Louw/Volksblad/Gallo Images via Getty
1. Jacob Zuma, the former South African president (2009–2018) who stands accused of corruption on an industrial scale, surrendered himself to police on Wednesday, three days after supporters had gathered at his home and threatened to prevent his arrest.
2. At least 20 and up to several dozen protesters in the small Southern African kingdom of Eswatini have been killed in demonstrations sparked by a law student’s death, allegedly at the hands of police.
3. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited Jordan secretly last week and met with King Abdullah II at his palace in Amman, Axios’ Barak Ravid scoops.
4. Lithuania has accused Belarus of flying in migrants and sending them to their shared border, and it plans to build a barrier to stop that from happening.
We're going to be bringing some Olympics history to Where in the World leading up to the Tokyo Games. Scroll to the bottom for the answer.
This port city hosted the 1920 Olympics.
Larger than life: Trifonov sings at a campaign concert/rally. Photo: Nikolay Doychinov/AFP via Getty
Sunday's snap parliamentary elections in Bulgaria pit the man who has dominated the Balkan country's politics for a decade against an insurgent party led by a popular TV host, Axios fellow Teodora Trifonova writes.
The big picture: Former longtime Prime Minister Boyko Borissov failed to form a government after an inconclusive election in April, which followed massive protests last year over corruption and Borissov's alleged mafia ties.
The other side: That has left a major opening for political newcomers like Slavi Trifonov, sometimes referred to as the Bulgarian David Letterman.
Known to Bulgarians simply as “Slavi,” the 6.6-foot showman is a folk-pop musician, producer and actor, but he's best known for his late-night program “Slavi’s Show."
Borissov is a colorful figure in his own right.
What’s next: Despite leading the two top parties, Borissov and Trifonov have both said they won't serve as prime minister if their party wins. Both are considered likely candidates for the presidency in the fall, though that role is less powerful.
Fears are growing that Indonesia — with its massive population (271 million), low vaccination rate (13% have one dose) and surging COVID-19 death toll — could become the next India.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
China's special treatment of homegrown companies can stop cold when their growth has come at odds with Beijing's dominance, Axios' Felix Salmon writes.
The big picture: Ride-hail giant Didi is learning the hard way that Beijing wants to remain the absolute power of the land, unthreatened by corporate giants.
The bottom line: Didi, Alibaba and other hot startups were long viewed as vehicles for the Communist Party of China to burnish the China brand globally.
Lavender fields in Brihuega, Castilla La-Mancha, Spain. It's a beautiful world out there. Photo: Rafeal Martin/Europa Press via Getty
“If this method continues, they’re going to have problems. Because one side, which is our side, may not accept the result.”— Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro threatening to reject presidential election results if they aren't tabulated using paper ballots.
Answer: Antwerp, Belgium.