Good morning. I’m Virginia Harrison and these are the top stories today.
America’s longest war has come to an end. The last US evacuation flight left Kabul airport just before midnight local time, concluding America’s presence in Afghanistan that began just weeks after the September 11 attacks. There was no fanfare or ceremony, and no handing over of flags to Kabul’s new masters, although Taliban fighters marked the departure of the last US forces with salvoes of celebratory gunfire. A spokesperson for the movement, Zabihullah Mujahid, declared Afghanistan “completely liberated and independent”. It’s not clear how many Afghans remain who had hoped to flee, although the US said it would continue to try to help people evacuate. It came as a leaked US report said that a gate at Kabul airport was kept open by US commanders last Thursday to allow the UK to continue evacuating personnel despite warnings of an imminent “mass casualty event”. Later that day at least 170 Afghans and 13 US troops were killed in a double suicide bomb attack in the area.
For now, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said “a new chapter has begun” as the military operation ends and a diplomatic mission ramps up. The withdrawal of American troops, which met president Joe Biden’s deadline of 31 August, opens a period of fresh uncertainty for Afghanistan. More violence is likely. Western powers have been forced to accept Taliban control, while Islamic State Khorasan Province appears increasingly active, and the US has vowed to continue airstrikes against them. Some 120,000 Afghans are believed to have died in the violence since 2001. The US say 2,461 of its service members were killed since the conflict began. In today’s long read, Yale law professor Samuel Moyn examines how the US created a world of “endless war” during its occupation of Afghanistan.
Hurricane Ida: As many as 2 million people remain without power as the “catastrophic” damage from the most powerful storm ever to hit Louisiana continues to be assessed. The death toll of two is expected to rise, while people scarred by the Katrina disaster in 2005 assess the damage to property. Scores of coastal Louisiana residents remain trapped by floodwaters, while some living amid the maze of rivers and bayous along the state’s Gulf coast retreated desperately to their attics or roofs awaiting rescue crews.
Coronavirus – A new Covid variant has been detected in South Africa, causing concern around around the world. The C.1.2 lineage has drawn the attention of scientists because despite its low rate in the population, it possesses mutations within the genome similar to those seen in variants of interest and variants of concern, like the Delta variant. How worried should we be? The number of solid organ transplants fell dramatically around the world between 2019 and 2020, researchers have found, highlighting the widespread impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on health services and patients. They found that 487 patients died in the UK while waiting for a transplant compared with 372 in 2019-20. New Covid cases in New Zealand fell again today, raising hopes that the country is getting on top of the Delta outbreak. Follow all the updates on the pandemic at our live blog.
Left in the cold – Sir Tom Stoppard has revealed how his staunch criticism of communist regimes in his plays, born out of his own past as a Jewish child refugee from Czechoslovakia, set him at odds with the “lively” leftwing strain of the UK theatre scene. The playwright, who also scripted the Oscar-winning Shakespeare In Love, describes his complex upbringing and pride in being British as his latest, most personal play, Leopoldstadt, returns to the West End. “I began to resent my sanctuary [in Britain] being pissed on by everybody I knew,” he tells the Radio Times.
Hunt for green ideas: Britain’s energy regulator has launched a £450m fund aimed at innovative projects that will help the country meet its net zero climate targets. Ofgem says it’s looking for “bold and ambitious” ideas that have potential to be rolled out across the UK. The money will be available to energy network companies looking to help homes and businesses go green.
Taking the pulse – Students at universities in Berlin will from this winter swap currywurst and schnitzel for seeds and pulses as campus canteens bow to pressure for more climate-friendly menus. The 34 canteens and cafes catering to Berlin’s sizeable student population at four different universities will offer from October a menu that is 68% vegan, 28% vegetarian, and 2% fish-based, with a single meat option offered four days a week.
When the police came to Emma’s door on a Sunday evening, she could never have imagined that her ex-husband would be arrested for downloading indecent images of children. What happens to the families whose lives “the knock” turns upside down?
The Stranglers brawled with the Sex Pistols, gaffer-taped a journalist to the Eiffel Tower and got thrown out of Sweden twice. Now, for their 18th album and final tour, the punks seem to be maturing at last.
Sarah Storey eclipsed all competition to win her second gold medal of Tokyo 2020 in the C5 time trial on Tuesday morning to draw level with the swimmer Mike Kenny as the most successful British Paralympian of all time. Follow the action live here.
Andy Murray nearly pulled off a monumental win in the US Open first round at Flushing Meadows, where he led by two sets to one before gracefully falling in a five-set thriller to third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. Earlier, Johanna Konta was forced to withdraw from the tournament with a left thigh injury hours before she was due to take the court in her first‑round match. Leeds are set to sign Daniel James from Manchester United for £24m, more than two years after they almost signed him on loan. Manchester City travel to Real Madrid Femenino tonight without Lucy Bronze and Ellen White but it would still be a major shock were Gareth Taylor’s side to lose the first leg of their Champions League second qualifying round tie. And the deals done to bring Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku back to the Premier League show fans’ need for new signings outstrips a thirst for change, writes Jonathan Liew.
Growing optimism about the post-Covid recovery has pushed UK business confidence to a four-year high, the latest snapshot from Lloyds Bank shows. But companies are worried that staff shortages could push pay up in the coming months. The FTSE100 looks like shedding around 0.25% this morning, while the pound is fetching $1.377 and €1.166.
The Guardian leads on “Chaos and bloodshed as last US flight leaves Kabul”. The FT leads on “Fleeing Kabul: US evacuation in final hours” while i has “Fury and fear as last flights leave Kabul”. The Telegraph splashes with “RAF ready to launch fresh IS strikes in Afghanistan”. The Times leads on “Pentagon leaks blame UK for bombing deaths”, alongside a picture of two children said to be among seven children killed in a US drone strike in Kabul. The Sun has “We’re in charge now” next to pictures of Taliban members. The Mail leads on “Parents face new nappy tax”, reporting the government may introduce a levy on disposable brands to tackle a “landfill crisis”. And the Mirror leads on “We do love to be beside our seaside”. In the Express, pension campaigners have urged chancellor Rishi Sunak: “Don’t ‘double cross’ us over triple lock”.
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