Splainer

Thursday, August 12 2021


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The Delta variant will still infect people who have been vaccinated. And that does mean that anyone who's still unvaccinated at some point will meet the virus. We don't have anything that will stop transmission, so I think we are in a situation where herd immunity is not a possibility and I suspect the virus will throw up a new variant that is even better at infecting vaccinated individuals.

That’s UK’s leading Covid expert Andrew Pollard laying out what the implications of the Delta variant are for the future course of the pandemic. What he’s basically saying: vaccines won’t protect you from infection (hence, no herd immunity), but they will protect you from serious disease—the kind that lands you in hospital or kills you. So let’s just accept that reality and work toward getting as many people vaccinated as possible. There are times when you truly want to shoot the messenger.

Big Story

Editor’s note: Be sure to check this week’s edition of our podcast ‘Press Decode’—where the splainer team talks about the harder truths behind India’s Olympic fairytales and Baba Ramdev’s dreams of establishing a palm oil empire. Check it out over at Spotify, the IVM website or Apple Podcasts. This is truly a very different kind of news wrap show. So don’t miss out:)

 

Wtf is going on with the Taliban?

The TLDR: The Islamic extremist group is seizing control of the nation with dizzying speed—and many expect Kabul to fall within 90 days. But who is funding these guys? And where are they getting their arms?

 

What’s happening right now?

The exodus: The country is in a state of panic as the Taliban advances in the north with astonishing speed. People from the provinces are leaving in waves for the safety of the capital Kabul—especially women who fear being forcibly “married” to Taliban fighters. In July, the UN warned that around 270,000 people had been forced to flee after troops started to leave—and this number has surged in just the last few days.

 

Taliban’s astounding success: in seizing one city after another has shocked both the US—and the Taliban themselves. They have toppled nine provincial capitals in six days and now control an estimated 65% of the country. This is what the map looks like right now:

 

In fact, the Taliban is deliberately holding back—waiting for the US to officially leave on August 31 before it targets key cities and provinces.

 

Kabul is next: The Taliban have taken over districts in three provinces that surround Kabul which is a potentially ominous sign. If those provinces fall, then “the path to take Kabul is wide open.” US defence officials say Kabul may fall within 90 days.

 

The coming civil war: Afghan president Ashraf Ghani is readying for battle. He has replaced his Army chief and rushed to the besieged northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, trying to organize its defenses and halt the Taliban.

 

The US is outta here: President Biden will not revisit the plan to leave by the end of the month, telling reporters: “We spent over a trillion dollars, over 20 years. We trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces ... they've got to fight for themselves.” The limited air strike support that is available now may also come to an end next month—and will be of no use once the Taliban swarm into cities, where the civilians are.

 

For more: on what is happening in the war between the Afghan government and the Taliban, check out our previous Big Story.

 

Who are these people?

Everyone knows of the Taliban, but we don’t know very much about them. Here’s a quick refresher:

 

  • The Pashtun word Taliban means ‘students’ and originally referred to the disciples of its founder Mullah Omar. The mullah first gained fame as a mujahideen commander who helped push the Soviets out of the country in 1989. He founded the Taliban in 1994 and it quickly became a powerful force—first capturing Kandahar and then Kabul in 1996.
  • They hanged President Najibullah Ahmadzai and declared Afghanistan an Islamic emirate, imposing a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
  • The Taliban also gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden—who used the country as a base to stage the 9/11 attacks. 
  • The US invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban—who remained in exile in Pakistan under Mullah Omar until his death in 2013. It is currently led by Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada and his three key commanders—including Omar’s son Mullah Yaqoub and Pakistan-backed Sirajuddin Haqqani.

 

So who is funding these guys?

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In today’s edition

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Reading Habit

  • From 'Billy Summers' to 'A Slow Fire Burning': Here are some of our fave new releases! 
 
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