Welcome back to Axios World.
- We’ve got a jam-packed edition (1,802 words, 7 minutes) tonight, with stops in Afghanistan, Venezuela and the future.
Welcome back to Axios World.
Afghans wait outside a bank in hopes of withdrawing cash, watched by a Taliban fighter. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty
With the Afghan government and economy starved of cash, the Taliban are pressing their claim to the roughly $8 billion in Afghan foreign reserves that have been frozen by the U.S.
Why it matters: Afghanistan is barreling into a humanitarian crisis, and donor countries and international institutions have cut off the aid that accounted for some 75% of the previous government’s budget.
The other side: The Biden administration appears set to leave the Afghan assets in limbo for some time.
“The administration is in a real pickle here,” says Laurel Miller, a former top State Department official on Afghanistan and now director of the Asia program at the International Crisis Group.
State of play: The UN is urgently seeking additional funding and warning that the crisis will deepen as winter approaches. Already, only 5% of Afghan households have enough to eat.
Between the lines: The senior U.S. official argued that the reserves are a “separate issue” from the U.S. response to the humanitarian crisis and that releasing them would “not solve the lasting economic challenges Afghanistan is facing.”
Freddy Guevara, an opposition leader, speaks during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, in August. Photo: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Venezuelan opposition leader Freddy Guevara has lost his freedom twice at the hands of Nicolás Maduro’s regime, but he now sees a "window of opportunity" to bring about free and fair elections, he told Axios' Oriana Gonzalez in an interview.
Why it matters: Guevara and other opposition delegates have been holding negotiations in Mexico with officials from Maduro's government since September. The opposition is pressing for free presidential elections, while Maduro’s side wants sanctions relief and access to Venezuelan assets overseas.
What he’s saying: Four previous sets of negotiations with Maduro since 2014 have collapsed, and the opposition "cannot guarantee that [the current talks] are not going to fail,” Guevara said.
State of play: The negotiations, mediated by Norway, have already yielded agreements on humanitarian issues, such as child nutrition programs and the pandemic response. Now, Guevara said, “the main topics” will be on the table.
The backstory: Guevara was arrested in July and accused of “terrorism” and “treason,” but he was released a month later to take his place at the negotiating table.
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios
Major global economies are facing damaging shortages of fossil fuels just as they're about to convene to discuss how to transition away from them.
Driving the news: A combination of weather-related issues (many of which are related to climate change), unexpected demand and planned outages has sent natural gas and coal prices through the roof, Axios' Felix Salmon and Andrew Freedman write.
What's next: The UN Climate Summit in Glasgow begins on Oct. 31.
The bottom line: The world is reliant on fossil fuels for much-needed growth, and the transition to alternatives isn't moving fast enough.
Screengrab via Apple News
You might need a compass to solve today's puzzle. Or at least to visualize one...
Scroll to the bottom for the answers.
Kenyatta with Biden in the Oval Office. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty
President Biden hosted Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the White House today, where he announced that the U.S. will donate an additional 17 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union.
Why it matters: Biden is belatedly seeking to bolster U.S. engagement with the region, which has been a low priority as the administration goes all-in on countering China in the Indo-Pacific. But Biden's choice for the first African leader to visit his White House has raised some eyebrows.
Driving the news: Kenyatta, who has pledged to crack down on corruption in Kenya, is under scrutiny after his family was named in the Pandora Papers for owning at least 11 offshore companies with more than $30 million in assets.
Between the lines: The White House is hoping Kenya — a key U.S. security partner and the fifth-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid — will press Abiy's government to show restraint in the current civil war.
Pew polled 17 wealthy countries about the divisions that exist in their societies: politics, race, region and urban/rural.
Key findings: In 14 of the countries, respondents were mostly likely to say that politics was a source of strong divisions, ranging from 90% in the U.S. and South Korea to 52% in the U.K., 44% in Canada, 39% in Japan and 33% in Singapore.
The flipside: In all countries that were polled in both 2017 and 2021, the percentage of respondents believing diversity was good for society increased, often significantly.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The best — and perhaps only — way to respond to huge changes in the climate and global demography may be to facilitate mass migration, Axios Future correspondent Bryan Walsh writes.
In his new book "Move: The Forces Uprooting Us," political geographer Parag Khanna makes the case that the world is poised to enter a new era of mass migration in response to major environmental, economic and political changes — and this will be a largely positive change.
Blackout in Beirut. AFP via Getty
"Decisions on lockdowns and social distancing during the early weeks of the pandemic ... rank as one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced."— From a report on the initial U.K. response to the pandemic
Answers: North Korea (#3), South Sudan (#2), East Timor, or Timor-Leste (red pin), Western Sahara (purple pin) and Central African Republic (#1).