AuthorCruickshank, Paul

In this month's feature article, Seth Jones examines the evolving threat posed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. "The Taliban is in many ways a different organization from the one that governed Afghanistan in the 1990s. Yet most of their leaders are nevertheless committed to an extreme interpretation of Islam that is not shared by many Afghans, an autocratic political system that eschews democracy, and the persistence of relations with terrorist groups like al-Qa'ida. These realities cast serious doubt about the possibility of a lasting peace agreement with the Afghan government in the near future," he writes, adding that "without a peace deal, the further withdrawal of U.S. forces--as highlighted in the November 17, 2020, announcement to cut U.S. forces from 4,500 to 2,500 troops--will likely shift the balance of power in favor of the Taliban. With continuing support from Pakistan, Russia, Iran, and terrorist groups like al-Qa'ida, it is the view of the author that the Taliban would eventually overthrow the Afghan government in Kabul."

In a feature commentary, Hamish de Bretton-Gordon outlines the urgent action needed on biosecurity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. He writes: "For years, the United States and many other countries have neglected biosecurity because policymakers have underestimated both the potential impact and likelihood of biological threats. COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the planet and could be followed by outbreaks of even more dangerous viral diseases. Meanwhile, advances in synthetic biology are transforming the potential threat posed by engineered pathogens...

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