Government troops retook Qala-e-Naw, capital of the western Badghis province, on Thursday after Taliban fighters had seized the city the day before. It was the first major provincial capital that the insurgents had captured in the course of their offensive as U.S. and NATO forces complete their withdrawal from the country. The Taliban have made significant territorial gains in the last two months, sparking fears among Afghans and outside observers alike that they could soon topple the government in Kabul. Crisis Group expert Andrew Watkins says the fight over Qala-e-Naw may be a harbinger of things to come: the next phase of Afghanistan’s war could be a seesaw battle between the government and insurgents over large population centres, even as the Taliban tighten their grip on much of the countryside.
Interim Prime Minister Hassan Diab told a meeting of foreign ambassadors Tuesday that Lebanon is “days away from a social explosion”, as the country’s economic meltdown causes a growing humanitarian crisis. The Lebanese lira has lost more than 90 per cent of its value since mid-2019, as banks impose severe restrictions on depositors’ ability to withdraw their money. The UN estimates that 77 per cent of the population is food insecure. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s squabbling politicians have been unable to form a government since the August 2020 Beirut port disaster compelled the previous cabinet to resign. Crisis Group expert Heiko Wimmen says the political class appears unwilling to make reforms that might affect their financial interests and how they wield power. Donors should focus on emergency humanitarian aid and security-sector support, in order to stave off even greater suffering that might lead to unrest. They should also insist on transformative reforms, which are necessary if more substantial assistance is to achieve results.