Monthly Archives August 2021

‘Hundreds’ of Americans Still in Afghanistan After Last Military Flight: CENTCOM

An Afghan refugee girl, fleeing the Afghan capital Kabul, stands on the tarmac after disembarking from an US air force plane upon their arrival at Pristina International airport near Pristina on Aug. 29, 2021. (Armend Nimani/AFP via Getty Images)

An Afghan refugee girl, fleeing the Afghan capital Kabul, stands on the tarmac after disembarking from an US air force plane upon their arrival at Pristina International airport near Pristina on Aug. 29, 2021. (Armend Nimani/AFP via Getty Images) US News

By Isabel van Brugen August 30, 2021 Updated: August 31, 2021 biggersmallerPrint

The Pentagon has admitted that “hundreds” of Americans seeking evacuation have been left in Afghanistan, after the last U.S. military plane departed Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai International Airport a few hours before dawn.

In announcing that the United States has officially ended its military presence in Afghanistan, hours before President Joe Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) head Gen. Frank McKenzie said that there are still Americans who remain in Afghanistan “in the low hundreds.”

He made the remarks during a televised address in response to a reporter’s question, adding that the military and State Department will work to evacuate those individuals.

“There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure. We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out,” said McKenzie, adding that it is a “tough situation.”

The head of U.S. Central Command added that he believed if U.S. troops remained in Afghanistan for a further 10 days, “we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out … and there still would’ve been people who would’ve been disappointed.”

Earlier this month, Biden vowed to keep U.S. troops in the country until all Americans who wished to leave had been evacuated.

The U.S. military objective in Afghanistan was to get “everyone” out, including Americans and our Afghan allies and their families, Biden told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an interview on Aug. 18.

“That’s what we’re doing now, that’s the path we’re on. And I think we’ll get there,” Biden said at the time. “If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out.”

A Pentagon spokesman earlier on Aug. 30 said that around 600 Americans still remain in the country.

The U.S. pullout from Afghanistan ended with a rushed evacuation that extracted more than 100,000 people beginning Aug. 14 as the Taliban took over Kabul following a sweeping advance to the capital over only a few days.

On Aug. 26, a bombing at Kabul’s airport claimed the lives of an estimated 170 Afghan civilians, 13 U.S. troops, and three Britons. ISIS-K, an ISIS affiliate, claimed responsibility for the Aug. 26 attack, bragging about a suicide bomber “managing to penetrate all the security fortifications” put into place by U.S. forces and the Taliban.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said that it was conducting a “Taliban investigation” into the attacks. Meanwhile, Afghan resistance leader Amrullah Saleh, who says he is Afghanistan’s acting president according to its constitution, has claimed that the Taliban, which has many factions in Afghanistan, were behind the blasts.Related CoverageAfghanistan’s Acting President Says Taliban Behind ISIS-K Kabul Bombing

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that the United States will continue to try to evacuate the remaining Americans by either working with Afghanistan’s neighbors to secure their departure either overland or by charter flight once Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport reopens.

“The protection and welfare of Americans abroad remains the State Department’s most vital and enduring mission,” said Blinken. “If an American in Afghanistan tells us that they want to stay for now and then in a week or a month or a year, they reach out and say, I’ve changed my mind, we will help them leave.”

The Taliban terrorist group has claimed that normal travel will be allowed after it assumed control of the airpot following the U.S. troop withdrawal.

Jack Phillips contributed to this report.Isabel van Brugen Isabel van BrugenReporter Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master’s in newspaper journalism from City, University of London

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California fire approaches Lake Tahoe after mass evacuation

Published Aug 30, 2021 09:47 pm Updated Aug 31, 2021 07:17 am

California fire approaches Lake Tahoe after mass evacuation View Photo

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (AP) — A ferocious wildfire swept toward Lake Tahoe on Tuesday just hours after roads were clogged with fleeing cars when the entire California resort city of South Lake Tahoe was ordered to evacuate and communities just across the state line in Nevada were warned to get ready to leave.

The popular vacation haven normally filled with tens of thousands of summer tourists emptied out Monday as the massive Caldor Fire rapidly expanded. Vehicles loaded with bikes and camping gear and hauling boats were in gridlock traffic, stalled in hazy, brown air that smelled like a campfire. Police and other emergency vehicles whizzed by.

“It’s more out of control than I thought,” evacuee Glen Naasz said of the fire that by late Monday had been pushed by strong winds across California highways 50 and 89, burning mountain cabins as it swept down slopes into the Tahoe Basin.

More firefighters arrived just after dark Monday and many were dispatched to protect homes in the Christmas Valley area about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from South Lake Tahoe.

“There is a massive amount of resources ordered and they are all for structure protection,” fire spokesman Dominic Polito said early Tuesday.

Thick smoke prevented air firefighting operations periodically last week. But since then, 23 helicopters and three airtankers dumped thousands of gallons of water and retardant on the fire, Polito said.

The National Weather Service warned of critical fire weather conditions through Wednesday due to strong gusts, very low humidity and extremely dry fuels.

Ken Breslin was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) from his home in the city of 22,000, with only a quarter-tank of gas in his Ford Escape. His son begged him to leave Sunday night, but he shrugged him off, certain that if an evacuation order came, it would be later in the week.

“Before, it was, ‘No worries … it’s not going to crest. It’s not gonna come down the hill. There’s 3,500 firefighters, all those bulldozers and all the air support,’” he said. “Until this morning, I didn’t think there was a chance it could come into this area. Now, it’s very real.”

As flames churned toward South Lake Tahoe, residents just over the state line in Nevada faced evacuation warnings.

Monday’s evacuation orders came a day after communities several miles south of the lake were abruptly ordered to leave as the fire raged nearby. South Lake Tahoe’s main medical facility, Barton Memorial Hospital, evacuated dozens of patients. The El Dorado Sheriff’s Office transferred inmates to a neighboring jail.

“There is fire activity happening in California that we have never seen before. The critical thing for the public to know is evacuate early,” said Chief Thom Porter, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. “For the rest of you in California: Every acre can and will burn someday in this state.”

The threat of fire is so widespread that the U.S. Forest Service announced Monday that all national forests in California would be closed until Sept. 17.

“We do not take this decision lightly but this is the best choice for public safety,” Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien said.

Overnight, the already massive Caldor Fire grew 7 miles (11 kilometers) in direction in one area northeast of Highway 50 and more than 8 miles (13 miles) in another, Cal Fire officials said.

More than 15,000 firefighters were battling dozens of California blazes, including crews from Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia, said Mark Ghilarducci, director of California’s Office of Emergency Services. About 250 active-duty soldiers were being trained in Washington state to help clear forest debris by hand.

Crews from Louisiana, however, had to return to that state because of Hurricane Ida, “another major catastrophic event taking place in the country and is a pull on resources throughout the United States,” he said.

Porter said that only twice in California history have blazes burned from one side of the Sierra Nevada to the other, both this month, with the Caldor and Dixie fires. The Dixie, the second-largest wildfire in state history at 1,205 square miles (3,121 square kilometers) about 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of the Lake Tahoe-area blaze, prompted new evacuation orders and warnings Monday.

The Lake Tahoe area is usually a year-round recreational paradise offering beaches, water sports, hiking, ski resorts and golfing. South Lake Tahoe, at the lake’s southern end, bustles with outdoor activities, and with casinos available in bordering Stateline, Nevada.

The city’s weekend population easily triples and on holiday weekends, like the upcoming Labor Day weekend, up to 100,000 people will visit for fun and sun. But South Lake Tahoe City Mayor Tamara Wallace said people have been told for days to stay away because of poor air quality.

She thought the Caldor Fire would stay farther away. Fires in the past did not spread so rapidly near the tourist city.

“It’s just yet another example of how wildfires have changed over the years,” Wallace said as she gathered treasured items from her deceased parent and her husband’s as they prepared to leave.

The last two wildfires that ripped through populated areas near Tahoe were the Angora Fire that destroyed more than 200 homes in 2007 and the Gondola Fire in 2002 that ignited near a chairlift at Heavenly Mountain Resort.

Since then, dead trees have accumulated and the region has coped with serious droughts, Wallace said. Climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive, scientists say.

Traffic out of South Lake Tahoe crawled Monday, but Wallace said the evacuation was orderly because residents heeded officials’ orders. Authorities have more aggressively issuing warnings in recent years so people have more time to flee.

Not everyone agreed as fierce winds kicked up dust and debris and drivers sat in gridlock. The California Highway Patrol added “quite a bit of additional personnel” to help guide a chaotic evacuation from South Lake Tahoe, as huge traffic jams slowed the evacuation of vehicles, CHP Assistant Commissioner Ryan Okashima said.

South Lake Tahoe resident John Larson said the evacuation probably went as smoothly as possible, considering how swiftly flames moved into the area.

“The fuel went so fast and it climbed the ridge so quick,” Larson said of the fire after settling into an evacuation center at a park in Carson City, Nevada. Red Cross volunteers set up the facility with 50 cots after another evacuation center reached capacity.

The fire destroyed multiple homes Sunday along Highway 50, one of the main routes to the lake’s south end. It also roared through the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort, demolishing some buildings but leaving the main base buildings intact. Crews used snow-making machines to douse the ground.

Cabins burned near the unincorporated community of Echo Lake, where Tom Fashinell has operated Echo Chalet with his wife since 1984. The summer-only resort offers cabin rentals, but was ordered to close early for the season because of wildfires.

Fashinell said he was glued to the local TV news. “We’re watching to see whether the building survives,” he said.

The Caldor Fire has scorched nearly 292 square miles (756 square kilometers) since breaking out Aug. 14. After the weekend’s fierce burning, containment dropped from 19% to 15%.

More than 600 structures have been destroyed, and at least 20,000 more were threatened. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on Monday declared a state of emergency in his state, citing the high risk that the California would burn across the state line.

Diane Kinney, who has lived in South Lake Tahoe since the 1970s, said this it was the first time her neighborhood was ordered to evacuate. She and her husband packed up keepsakes, jewelry and insurance papers shortly after noon. They left behind their 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle.

“There are definitely advantages of being in the mountains, being with these beautiful pine trees,” she said. “But we definitely have to get out now.”


Har reported from San Francisco. AP writers Jocelyn Gecker and Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco; Noah Berger in South Lake Tahoe; Christopher Weber and John Antczak in Los Angeles; and Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

Associated Press/Report for America

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Nearly 15 Million Mail-in-Ballots Unaccounted for in 2020 Election, Report Says

Vote-by-mail ballots are shown in U.S. Postal Service sorting trays at the King County Elections headquarters in Renton, Wash., on Aug. 5, 2020. (Ted S. Warren/AP Photo)

Vote-by-mail ballots are shown in U.S. Postal Service sorting trays at the King County Elections headquarters in Renton, Wash., on Aug. 5, 2020. (Ted S. Warren/AP Photo) US News

By Matthew Vadum August 18, 2021 Updated: August 18, 2021 biggersmallerPrint

In the November 2020 general election, whose chaotic results have been vigorously disputed, almost 15 million mail-in ballots went unaccounted for, according to a good-government group that focuses on electoral integrity.

The research brief by the Indianapolis-based Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) notes that as the nation dealt last year with the CCP virus (which causes COVID-19), various U.S. states “hastily pushed traditionally in-person voters to mail ballots while, at the same time, trying to learn how to even administer such a scenario.”

PILF describes itself as “the nation’s only public interest law firm dedicated wholly to election integrity,” existing “to assist states and others to aid the cause of election integrity and fight against lawlessness in American elections.”

Former Justice Department civil rights attorney J. Christian Adams, now president of PILF, said the results don’t bode well for mail-in voting.

“These figures detail how the 2020 push to mail voting needs to be a one-year experiment,” Adams said in a statement.

Bills pending in Congress such as H.R. 1, the proposed “For The People Act,” “risk inflating these numbers even further, pushing our election system toward error, disenfranchisement, and ultimately widespread doubt about election outcomes,” Adams said.

“Some of the counties with the least experience in administering mail voting rejected the most ballots nationwide. If continued, 2020-style chaos will become the norm.”

PILF says it had warned that lost ballots would be an even bigger problem in 2020 compared to previous years. In total, elections in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020 saw more than 43.1 million unaccounted for mail-in ballots.

Federal data compilations show that during the 2020 election, there were 14.7 million ballots whose whereabouts were deemed “unknown” by election officials, according to the brief.

To gather the data, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission asked local officials how many ballots were not returned as voted, were undeliverable, or were otherwise “unable to be tracked.”

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) inspector general most recently reported that only 13 percent of mail ballots in the 2018 general election used the official tracking system, which means there is a wide variety of things that can happen to a ballot in the “unknown” column.

“A ballot can be put in the wrong mailbox and land in an unfriendly neighbor’s trash. It can be thrown out with your unpaid bills. It can be left outside for the wind to carry the last mile (like seen in Nevada in 2020). Election officials simply do not know what happened. Unknown ballots are the greatest blind spot in the American electoral system,” the brief states.

In the 2020 election, there were 14.7 million “unknown” ballots, along with 1.1 million undeliverable ballots, and 560,814 rejected ballots.

PILF put these figures in perspective by noting that President Joe Biden carried Arizona by 10,457 votes, yet Maricopa County, the state’s largest county, reportedly sent ballots to 110,092 outdated or wrong addresses. The post-voting audit process in Maricopa is still in progress.

The scenario roughly repeated itself in Nevada, a state where Biden prevailed by 33,596 votes, even though Clark County “bounced” 93,279 ballots.

“The lesson is clear: increased reliance on mass mail voting must correlate with aggressive voter registration list maintenance,” the brief concludes.

The report notes that many counties across the country had large numbers of “unknown” ballots.

In California, Los Angeles County had 1,491,459 such ballots, followed by Orange County (482,940), Riverside County (454,911), San Diego County (317,614), San Bernardino County (274,937), Santa Clara County (251,840), and Sacramento County (241,367).

Clark County, Nevada, had 724,708 such ballots. Essex County, New Jersey, had 248,290 unknown ballots, and Maricopa County had 229,123 ballots in the unknown category.Matthew Vadum Matthew Vadumcontributor Matthew Vadum is an award-winning investigative journalist and a recognized expert in left-wing activism.

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What a surprise – attempting to gain weight is just as frustrating as when trying to lose weight. I couldn’t guess the number of times I’ve stood in the grocery store debating whether to pick up that bag of Chips Ahoy, candy or that carton of ice cream, most of the time I can successfully walk away settling for some 1% low fat chocolate milk and a bulk bag of dry children’s cereal. (Want a great recipe for quick DIY chocolate pie? Ritz crackers and a chocolate pudding cup.)

My last couple of shopping trips have been quite different though – no apprehension about the purchase and of consumption of ice cream and cookies or the frozen dinners with lots of rich cheese and sauces – I WANT SOME WEIGHT BACK! lol Yup, gaining is as slow as losing but I’m afraid if I don’t stay on top of the situation and monitor it carefully I could take a short nap and wake up 200+lbs! lol

Don’t believe there’s any serious physical damage from that strenuous excursion or anything but it sure is strange eating things I’ve always made great effort to avoid because I didn’t want to tip the scales over my desired weight. Yup, never say never…wanting to gain weight! ha!

Body/skin lotion. That’s another purchase I rarely make as I still have bottles and tubes of the stuff abandoned by my Mom and various guests who left the stuff behind. No sense in purchasing what I already had somewhere even if I didn’t use it but on the desert and suddenly realizing my skin (entire body actually) was indeed beginning to exhibit clear signs of fluid loss I began going through the traditional places searching for relief. First aid kit? Nope. Glove compartment? Nope. Tool box? Nope. Finally found a tube of some Coconut sunburn relief lotion underneath the pickup’s folded back seat. I kid you not – felt as though I had discovered gold and admit to pausing for a moment and looking up to say “Oh thank you Dear Lord” as I smeared the stuff over my dry and cracked fingertips and hands – rest of the body could wait. My hands were shot. The last few mornings there even had great difficulty in lacing up my boots for the work day. Couldn’t find my bottle of brush-on New Skin so I used a comparable spray medication I bought for Liz when she has abrasions or small cuts on her paws.

WEIGHT LOSS UNDOUBTEDLY RELATED TO EXTREMELY LIMITED BEER CONSUMPTION. (What a shocker!) Yup, although I had plenty of it on hand it was not appealing working in that heat. [Perhaps the added 3,500′ in elevation made an impact as well?] Besides, productivity always goes down with alcohol consumption – that’s why it’s best towards the end of the day – like a celebration of what’s been learned and/or accomplished. The few cans I actually did open were rarely finished (warm beer isn’t too appealing to me [I like my mountain “blue” lol] – but once out of the ice chest and opened must be consumed rather quickly – and slamming beer has never been an activity I’ve pursued) – No, I wanted Gatorade, water or a cold Mountain Dew. Yes, I know the “Lew Dew” is not good for hydration issues, but it tasted good and provided some needed extra energy – and those I could put away rather quickly before turning desert warm. At one point (between ice runs) even used melted ice chest water to make some instant lemonade with a powder mix. Not bad if one didn’t mind whatever the wind might have blown into the chest when open. Next trip going with an AC/DC cooler as “ice runs” were quite inconvenient due to the rough roads and time required – plus in that exceptional heat ice only lasted a day or so. Please don’t think I am complaining, as the experiences (even negative ones) were exactly what I was seeking in adequately discovering and evaluating such an environment for the possibility of another place to call home.

Dramatic changes in weather with the customary afternoon cycling of strong winds from one direction then another and the only shade was what I brought with me. No large trees with canopies to keep the shaded ground underneath cooler than the rest of the radiating ground and because my shade cloths were much smaller than the shade produced by a large tree, as the Sun moved across the sky so did my little patch of shade thus the ground never had sufficient time to cool down a bit. (NOTE) Next time – more shade cloth over a larger area which can be rather tricky in adequately securing with those oscillating strong winds. Seriously, it’s just like the old expression, “If you don’t like the weather wait 15 minutes”! lol

I was particularly surprised when a very light rain fell for just a couple of minutes (you were so right Cousin S!) – just like someone had turned on a large swamp cooler or lower functioning air conditioner, and once again with head tilted back while looking up in acknowledgment while that misty rain spotted my sunburned face and sunglasses, I softly expressed my appreciation and thanks. Funny how the little things in life that are taken for granted so often can be transformed into wonderful (and necessary) blessings you might not have ever experienced but for the placing of yourself in a challenging foreign environment. Yes, I’m learning much and look forward to more desert educational lessons. Flash canyon debris flows? Good heavens I never would have guessed such tremendous power would have been released in that area to reshape the landscape as it did in July. Sorry I missed that geologic show because it undoubtedly was a major event without comparison in the last four decades or so. Yes indeed, a dramatic desert environment on multiple fronts.

Anyway, last night I was sitting in the recliner planning various other projects I won’t be able to complete in the time I IMAGINE I COULD IF I REALLY APPLIED MYSELF (LOL) [old fart rationalization] when I glanced over at a bottle of Lubriderm sitting on the coffee table I bought while grocery shopping for those weight gaining substances usually avoided. I swallowed another mouthful of Strawberry ice cream then began massaging the lotion in to my still extremely dry hands and fingers when a humorous thought emerged from the grey matter in my re-hydrating brain. Why not? Haven’t touched the guitar in months and it might even be good for my hands and fingers anyway – shouldn’t be too strenuous as I only know a few chords anyway……

Minor changes with an avi format –

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Chinese State Media Welcomes Taliban’s Rise in Afghanistan, Exults in US ‘Defeat’

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political chief of Afghanistan's Taliban, in Tianjin, China on July 28, 2021.  (Li Ran/Xinhua via Reuters)

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political chief of Afghanistan’s Taliban, in Tianjin, China on July 28, 2021. (Li Ran/Xinhua via Reuters) Asia & Pacific

By Eva Fu August 17, 2021 Updated: August 18, 2021 biggersmallerPrint

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan gave the Chinese regime a golden opportunity to attack the United States and attempt to widen its own influence. And it wasted no time to seize it.

State-run newspapers, broadcasters, and Chinese diplomats have launched a propaganda offensive not dissimilar to the regime’s ongoing efforts to deflect blame around the origins of the pandemic.

The propaganda includes touting the prospective Chinese friendship with the Taliban insurgents, who have taken over Afghanistan at a sweeping pace in the past week, mocking the U.S. “defeat,” and threatening Taiwan by questioning U.S. commitment in the Asian region.

Put together, the narrative put forward by the communist regime was: the United States has failed Afghanistan, and Beijing is ready to offer an olive branch.

“Wherever the U.S. sets foot in, be it Iraq, Syria, or Afghanistan, we see turbulence, division, broken families, deaths, and other scars in the mess it has left. The U.S. power and role is destructive rather than constructive,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying in an Aug. 17 press briefing. She had told reporters a day prior that the changes in Afghanistan were a result of “the will and choice of the Afghan people.”

In late July, about a month before the scheduled U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Chinese regime was among the first countries to signal its support for the Islamist militants when Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted a delegation of Taliban representatives in the port city of Tianjin.

The Enemy’s Enemy Is a Friend

Images and videos showed thousands of Afghan civilians thronging Kabul airport in a desperate bid to escape the war-torn country, fearful of a revival of the past harsh practices—including public stoning, whipping, and hanging—under Islamic militants’ rule two decades ago. In the Taliban-captured cities, many residents have chosen to lie low and stay indoors, while shops, supermarkets, and government offices remain shuttered.

A man pulls a girl to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul
A man pulls a girl to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 16, 2021. (Stringer/Reuters)

China and Russia are among a handful of countries that have chosen to keep their embassies open, as the United States and its allies evacuated diplomats by helicopter. Meanwhile, Chinese state media were painting a welcoming picture of the Taliban’s victory, with one article dated Aug. 17 headlined “normalcy returns to Afghan capital.”

State-run news agency Xinhua, in an Aug. 16 article, found similarity in the Talibans’ military strategy and how the Chinese Communist Party won the Chinese Civil War against the Kuomintang during the 1940s, calling the Taliban takeover a case of “the weak overcoming the strong” through rural guerrilla warfare.

It claimed that the “public sentiments in Afghanistan were very different from Western portrayals” and that Afghan cities were surrendering to the Taliban because the militants had “popular support.”

Hu Xijin, editor of the hawkish state-run tabloid Global Times, suggested on Twitter that “the power transition in Afghanistan is even more smooth than presidential transition in the U.S.,” adding, in a separate tweet, that the regime’s “principle of non-interference” has enabled it to “maintain the confidence that it need not close its embassy.”

“No matter who is in power, we’re ready to be Afghanistan’s friend,” he wrote on Aug. 15.

Feng Chongyi, a professor on China studies at the University of Technology Sydney, said the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) support for the Taliban was strategic.

The regime “supports the Taliban because they and the United States are on the opposite sides,” Feng told The Epoch Times.

“The CCP’s idea,” he said, “is that the enemy’s enemy is a friend.”

Afghans cling to plane
Hundreds of people run alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane, some climbing on the plane, as it moves down a runway of the international airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug.16. 2021. (Verified UGC via AP)

While ideologically, the atheist Chinese regime is not compatible with the Taliban, they could support the group and through this, “create trouble for America,” according to China affairs commentator Tang Jingyuan.

“By diverting U.S. attention, it would ease the CCP’s pressure in a direct confrontation,” he told The Epoch Times.

President Joe Biden said that by pulling out its forces from Afghanistan, the United States would be able to refocus its energy on China.

“Our true strategic competitors—China and Russia—would love nothing more than the United States to continue to funnel billions of dollars in resources and attention into stabilizing Afghanistan indefinitely,” he said at a press briefing on Monday.

Pressuring Taiwan

Besides mocking the United States with descriptors such as “humiliating,” “deleterious,” and “a death knell to the falling U.S. hegemony,” Chinese propaganda also capitalized on the U.S. troop withdrawal to undermine the United States’ reliability on the world stage.

Taking aim at Taiwan, a Global Times editorial on Monday claimed that the “Afghan abandonment” served a lesson for the democratically-ruled island, which has relied on U.S. support as it navigates the aggravating pressure from Beijing to reclaim the country as its own.

While Taiwan’s ruling administration has not weighed in on the Afghan situation, they “must have known better in secret that the U.S. is not reliable,” read the Global Times article.

Epoch Times Photo
A Taliban fighter mans a machinegun on top of a vehicle as they patrol along a street in Kabul on Aug. 16, 2021. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images)

The White House on Tuesday pushed back on the Chinese propaganda.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stressed that the U.S. commitment to Taiwan “remains as strong as it’s ever been,” telling reporters that, “when it comes to Taiwan, it is a fundamentally different question in a different context.”

Press Secretary Jen Psaki also rebuffed the Chinese claims that “the U.S. won’t come to help if war breaks out.”

“Our message is very clear: We stand by, as is outlined in the Taiwan Relations Agreement, individuals in Taiwan. We stand by partners around the world who are subject to this kind of propaganda that Russia and China are projecting, and we’re going to continue to deliver on those words with actions,” she said at the same press briefing.

The Chinese regime carried out assault drills near Taiwan on Tuesday, showing off warships and anti-submarine aircraft near the southwest and southeast of the island in response to what Beijing characterized as “provocations by Taiwan.”

Hoping to sow division between the United States and its Asian allies, the Chinese regime is trying to weaken the U.S.-centered freedom-loving world order and promote one of its own, said Tang.

From a geopolitical standpoint, he said, Washington could not afford to give up Taiwan.

Yu Tsung-chi, a former associate dean of the Political Warfare Cadres Academy at Taipei-based National Defense University, echoed Tang’s views.

The United States has been making efforts to strengthen ties with Taiwan, “not because Taiwan relies on America, rather, more because America needs Taiwan,” he told The Epoch Times.

A Chinese invasion of Taiwan would have a direct effect on Japan, South Korea, and even Australia, Yu said, adding that the need to prevent Taiwan’s advanced microchip manufacturing industry from being controlled by Beijing would compel the United States to step in if the regime makes military moves on the island.

Luo Ya contributed to this report.Eva Fu Eva FuChina Reporter Eva Fu is a New York-based writer for The Epoch Times focusing on U.S.-China, religious freedom, and human rights.

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US Black Hawk Helicopters Captured by Taliban as ‘Horrified’ Senators Demand DOD Audit

Undated photo showing a Black Hawk helicopter over Kabul in Afghanistan. (Dan Kitwood/AP)

Undated photo showing a Black Hawk helicopter over Kabul in Afghanistan. (Dan Kitwood/AP) National Security

By Jack Phillips August 19, 2021 Updated: August 20, 2021 biggersmallerPrint

Likely billions of dollars of American weapons and vehicles are now in the hands of the Taliban extremist group after the collapse of the Afghan government and army, with numerous videos and photos surfacing online showing Taliban members seizing the equipment.

Photos have circulated of Taliban members holding American M-4 carbines and M-16 rifles rather than AK-47s or AKMs. Other images and videos showed the Taliban surrounding U.S. Black Hawk helicopters and A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft.

On Wednesday, several GOP senators demanded the Department of Defense (DOD) provide full accounting over the weapons and equipment that were captured by the Taliban, considered by several agencies as a terrorist organization.

“As we watched the images coming out of Afghanistan as the Taliban retook the country, we were horrified to see U.S. equipment—including UH-60 Black Hawks—in the hands of the Taliban,” Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and two dozen other senators wrote to Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin this week.

“It is unconscionable that high-tech military equipment paid for by U.S. taxpayers has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies,” the Republicans added. “Securing U.S. assets should have been among the top priorities for the U.S. Department of Defense prior to announcing the withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

Some experts said that the Taliban capture of U.S. hardware has more of a psychological impact—rather than a practical impact.

“When an armed group gets their hands on American-made weaponry, it’s sort of a status symbol. It’s a psychological win,” said Elias Yousif, deputy director of the Center for International Policy’s Security Assistance Monitor, according to The Hill.

Yousif said the development is problematic for a number of reasons.

“Clearly, this is an indictment of the U.S. security cooperation enterprise broadly,” he added. “It really should raise a lot of concerns about what is the wider enterprise that is going on every single day, whether that’s in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia.”

Military vehicles transferred by the U.S. to the Afghan National Army in February 2021. (Afghanistan Ministry of Defense/via Reuters)
Taliban stand guard at an entrance gate outside the Interior Ministry in Kabul, on Aug. 17, 2021. (Javed Tanveer/AFP via Getty Images)

The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, established by Congress in 2008, has said that about $83 billion was spent on developing and sustaining the Afghan police and army over two decades. Between 2003 and 2016, the United States transferred nearly 600,000 weapons, 76,000 vehicles, 163,000 communication devices, 208 aircraft, and surveillance and reconnaissance equipment to the Afghan forces, said a 2017 Government Accountability Office report.

Between 2017 and 2019, the United States provided Afghan army forces with 4,702 Humvees, 2,520 bombs, 1,394 grenade launchers, 20,040 hand grenades, and 7,035 machine guns, said the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Yousif told The Hill that it’s likely the Taliban would be able to use advanced aircraft or weaponry but stressed they won’t be able to keep the aircraft in the air for long.

“They may be able to manage a flight or two or to operate them in some really limited capacity in the short term, but without long-term sustainment, maintenance, servicing, that sort of thing, it wouldn’t turn into a robust or useful military capability,” he said. “It took the Afghans and the United States a long time to develop an indigenous air capability, and even then, they were reliant on the United States to keep those planes in the sky.”

Small arms like M-16s, he said, are of more concern.

“They are easy to maintain, easy to learn how to use, easy to transport,” Yousif told the outlet. “The concern for all small arms is that they are durable goods and they can be transferred, sold. We’ve seen this before where a conflict ends and the arms that stay there make their way to all parts of the world.”

When pressed for comment, White House officials said that it’s not clear how many weapons or vehicles were seized.

“We don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone, but certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday. “And obviously, we don’t have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport.”

And Sullivan made reference to the Black Hawk helicopters that were taken, blaming the Afghan army for not defending themselves.

“Those Black Hawks were not given to the Taliban,” he said. “They were given to the Afghan National Security Forces to be able to defend themselves at the specific request of [Afghan] President [Ashraf] Ghani, who came to the Oval Office and asked for additional air capability, among other things.”Jack Phillips Jack PhillipsSenior Reporter Jack Phillips is a reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.

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Veterans Express Anger, Sadness Over Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan


US Probing Deaths at Plane Takeoff in Kabul

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A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies over the U.S. Embassy, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 15, 2021. (Rahmat Gul/AP Photo)

A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies over the U.S. Embassy, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 15, 2021. (Rahmat Gul/AP Photo) US Features

By Allan Stein August 17, 2021 Updated: August 17, 2021 biggersmallerPrint

Billy Vaughn of Florida is hesitant to say whether the war in Afghanistan was worth it or not, believing it’s not for him to pass judgment.

All the Gold Star father knows for certain is that his son, Aaron, died in that far-away conflict 10 years ago almost to the day, at the tender age of 30.

Each year, the family struggles with their loss.

“It’s always a difficult day,” Vaughn told The Epoch Times. “He was about as humble a boy as there ever could be.

“At the same time, he was a fierce protector and a fierce defender against injustice.”

Epoch Times Photo
Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn in Afghanistan. (Courtesy of the Vaughn Family)

Aaron was a proud member of Navy SEAL Team Six, who believed in the sacred trinity of flag, family, and faith.

In the end, “he gave up his life for that flag,” his father said.

Vaughn lost his son when his U.S. Army helicopter exploded over the Tangi Valley in Afghanistan on Aug. 6, 2011, killing all 30 aboard. It was the largest loss-of-life incident in the Afghanistan war.

Vaughn said that if his son were alive today, he’d be “sickened” by the sight of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan after thousands of U.S. service members died defending the country against tyranny.

“I’ve never seen such a tragedy unfold in my lifetime,” Vaughn said. “It’s really inexplicable to describe in my mind how badly the Biden administration has handled [the crisis]. There is no reason for us to flee like dogs with our tails between our legs.”

At best, Vaughn sees it as a “replay on steroids” of the failed Middle East policy of the Obama–Biden administration.

“He [Biden] is full of insults for everybody else,” Vaughn said. “You just can’t hardly believe that people are that stupid. It makes you wonder if it wasn’t done on purpose.

“We lost a boy over there. What I will say is this: These men and women who fought and died did what they did because they loved this country and they wanted to help the people of Afghanistan. If my son were alive today, he’d do it all over again,” he added.

At VFW Post 1709 in Flagstaff, Arizona, former U.S. Marine Cpl. Gabriel Winse said he served two tours in Iraq, in 2005 and 2009, and lost friends and fellow soldiers in Afghanistan.

He questioned the leadership that led to the humiliating takeover of the country by the Taliban.

Epoch Times Photo
Gabriel Winse of Flagstaff, Arizona, stands outside VFW Post 1709 in Flagstaff on Aug.16, 2021, a day after the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. Winse, a Marine Corps veteran who served two tours in Iraq, said his sincere hope is that U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan “didn’t die for nothing.” (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

“I don’t know if [the war] was worth it,” Winse told The Epoch Times. “Honestly, I really don’t know. They told me it was a waste of time—all my buddies that are over there.

“My biggest thing is the families that have lost a father, son, or daughter,” he said.

He said U.S. service members either died for a cause, “or they died for nothing.”

Dr. Tony Brooks, a former member of the elite 75th Army Ranger Regiment who lives in Washington, served in Afghanistan in 2005 and in Iraq from 2006 to 2007 in support of the global war on terror.

He now questions whether any of it was worth it.

After watching the tragedy in Afghanistan unfold on television, “I’ve experienced literally every emotion during the past week,” he said—from happiness that U.S. troops will soon be coming home, to sadness and disappointment over the terrible fate of the Afghan people who believe in democracy.

At the same time, 10,000 Americans are waiting to be evacuated at Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan’s capital, he said.

“I know what this means. I know where this is going,” Brooks told The Epoch Times. “I went over there to fight. I don’t know what it was for at this point. It feels very much like a complete failure—Vietnam 2.0.”

Epoch Times Photo
Tony Brooks (L), on a mission in Afghanistan as a member of the elite 75th Army Ranger Regiment. (Courtesy of Tony Brooks)

In terms of lives and treasure lost, Brooks is appalled that nearly 2,450 U.S. service members have died and $2 trillion has been spent in the 20-year conflict in Afghanistan.

“I did not risk my life to watch women in Afghanistan turned into slaves. They will suffer the greatest setback in women’s rights that we’ve seen in our lifetime. We finally have women in Afghanistan that are adults who have lived under a regime where they’ve had rights. Now, the Taliban is taking those rights and enslaving them,” Brooks said.

Brooks is the author of “Leave No Man Behind: The Untold Story of the Rangers’ Unrelenting Search for Marcus Luttrell, the Navy SEAL Lone Survivor in Afghanistan.”

In the aftermath of the Taliban conquest of Afghanistan, Brooks said he doesn’t support a return of U.S. troops to the country.

“I think the answer is no. It’s too late. To put people in the lion’s den again—that is not OK. I don’t think the government has a clue.”Allan Stein Allan Stein Allan Stein is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Arizona.

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Border Patrol Seizes Thousands of Fake CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Cards From China

Thousands of Counterfeit COVID-19 Vaccination Cards From China Seized in Tennessee

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Counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards recently seized by Customs And Border Protection officers in Aug. 2021. (U.S. Customs And Border Protection)

Counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards recently seized by Customs And Border Protection officers in Aug. 2021. (U.S. Customs And Border Protection) US News

By Jack Phillips August 20, 2021 Updated: August 20, 2021 biggersmallerPrint

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials seized more than 3,000 fake COVID-19 vaccination cards in Anchorage, Alaska, that came from China—the second such instance in about a week.

According to a news release from CBP, the fabricated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cards from China were of “low quality” but still “closely resemble” real CDC vaccine cards provided by healthcare practitioners when administering the vaccine around the United States.

“Getting these fraudulent cards off the streets and out of the hands of those who would then sell them is important for the safety of the American public,” said Lance Robinson, Area Port Director of the Area Port of Anchorage, according to the release. “Looking out for the welfare of our fellow Alaskans is one of the many and varied responsibilities CBP is proud to take on.”

Last week, CBP officials in Memphis, Tennessee, said they obtained thousands of fake COVID-19 vaccine cards in Memphis, Tennessee, which were en route to New Orleans, Louisiana. Those cards were also manufactured in China.

“Recently, CBP has been seizing a high volume of counterfeit vaccination cards throughout the country,” the agency said this week, without elaborating.

In Illinois, the Department of Justice announced it arrested a Chicago pharmacist, Tangtang Zhao, for selling authentic vaccine cards over the internet. Zhao faces as many as 120 years in prison.

With the latest seizure, it appears likely that fake vaccine cards are increasingly in demand as various municipalities like New York City and San Francisco start to mandate vaccine passports for certain public activities.

Vaccine passport systems have been criticized by civil liberties groups for potentially creating a segregated society of those who received the vaccine and those who have not. Other critics have said that these systems could potentially imperil individuals’ right to privacy, and GOP governors and state legislatures, including in Texas and Florida, have moved to bar their use in recent months.

Nonetheless, top officials, including White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zeints, as well as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in recent days have warned that buying and selling fake vaccine cards with the CDC seal is a crime.

Over the past weekend, Schumer called for a federal crackdown on fabricated CDC cards, claiming that “too many people are looking to buy them.”

“They are paying money for a fake card and risking prosecution,” the New York Democrat said during a press conference. “Who could be that dumb? Who could be that dumb? The vaccine is free, the vaccine is safe: Get the vaccine.”Jack Phillips Jack PhillipsSenior Reporter Jack Phillips is a reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.

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US Extends Closure of Canada and Mexico Land Borders

White House Announces COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Will Remain

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People cross the U.S.-Canadian border after Canada opened the border to vaccinated Americans in Blaine, Wash., on Aug. 9, 2021. (David Ryder/Reuters)

People cross the U.S.-Canadian border after Canada opened the border to vaccinated Americans in Blaine, Wash., on Aug. 9, 2021. (David Ryder/Reuters) US News

By Zachary Stieber August 20, 2021 Updated: August 20, 2021 biggersmallerPrint

The United States on Friday extended limits on travel deemed non-essential at its northern and southern land borders, even after Canada started accepting American tourists.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the 30-day extension, saying it was aimed at minimizing the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

“In coordination with public health and medical experts, DHS continues working closely with its partners across the United States and internationally to determine how to safely and sustainably resume normal travel,” the agency said in a statement.

COVID-19 is caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

The Delta variant of the virus in particular drove the extension, officials said.

The U.S. has kept land borders with Canada and Mexico closed since March 2020, repeatedly extending the closures during the COVID-19 pandemic even when COVID-19 metrics decreased significantly.

In recent weeks, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States have risen sharply as vaccine effectiveness wanes.

Canada announced last month that U.S. tourists could begin visiting the country on Aug. 9, but only if they were fully vaccinated against the CCP virus.

Fully vaccinated means a person has received the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna series, or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

So far, it does not include booster shots that were recently recommended for even healthy adults.

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can still return to the United States from Canada or Mexico, or any of the other countries from which America has restricted visitors.

The closures also don’t affect illegal immigration, which has skyrocketed under President Joe Biden, or the tens of thousands of Afghans being flown into the United States, not all of whom are being tested for COVID-19. Republicans have repeatedly hit the Biden administration over the border crisis, which shows no signs of slowing down.

Even some Democrats have expressed disappointment at the continued land border closures.

“The safety of NH’s families amid the Delta surge is my #1 priority, but this is disappointing news for border communities,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said Friday on Twitter.

“NH businesses can’t fully conduct trade & tourism, and families across the border are still separated. We must reopen the border to those who are vaccinated,” she added.

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