ASIA China (Security threat level – 3): On 23 November...
Mexico (Security threat level – 4): At approximately 0445 local time (0945 UTC) on 19 August 2021, Hurricane Grace made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane just south of the city of Tulum, located in Quintana Roo state, with maximum sustained winds of 130 kph (80 mph). As of 0700 local time on 19 August, Grace was located approximately 70 km (45 mi) south-southeast of the city of Valladolid, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. At that time, Grace had maximum sustained winds of 120 kph, with higher gusts, and was moving west at 28 kph. The storm is forecast to slightly weaken as it moves across the Yucatán Peninsula through 20 August before turning slightly southwest and passing over the southwest Gulf of Mexico by the afternoon of 20 August. The storm is then expected to strengthen back into a hurricane before making a second landfall along the central coast of Veracruz state during the evening of 20-21 August.
As of the morning of 19 August, at least 149,000 people are without power on the Yucatán Peninsula due to damage caused by Grace. Prior to the hurricane’s arrival, authorities in Quintana Roo state evacuated tourists from hotels not made to withstand hurricanes and moved them to shelters. State officials estimate that approximately 130,000 tourists were visiting the region as of last week. Some airlines canceled flights to the peninsula, including to Cancún International Airport (MMUN/CUN). Members of the Mexican military were deployed to Tulum to patrol the streets as residents formed lines to buy basic necessities. Several ports closed in the states of Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatán.
Grace is expected to produce 100-200 mm (4-8 in) of rainfall with isolated maximums of 305 mm through 20 August over states located along the north-central Yucatán Peninsula. Over central and northern Veracruz state, northern Puebla state and into Hidalgo state, Grace is expected to produce 125-255 mm of rainfall with isolated maximums of up to 380 mm from 20-22 August.
United States (Security threat level – 2): The San Francisco Department of Public Health has issued an order — slated to take effect citywide on 20 August 2021 — requiring individuals visiting or residing in the California city to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 in order to enter most public indoor establishments, such as bars, restaurants, gyms, fitness centers and entertainment venues. The order mandates such establishments to enforce the requirement to all of their staff members no later than 13 October. People ineligible for vaccines and children under 12 years of age are exempt. The vaccination card issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an acceptable form of proof, or residents of California may obtain a digital copy of the vaccination record by completing a form in the Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record portal. Further information as outlined by the Department of Health is available here.
Afghanistan (Security threat level – 5): As of 19 August 2021, the Taliban have not formally named a government; however, sources within the militant group indicate that the country is likely to be ruled by an Islamic council with the group’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, as the overall leader of the country. Meanwhile, the situation in the capital Kabul remains tense but calm. The Taliban have promised to maintain security in the city and to punish anyone who disrupts the peace. However, residents of the city reported several dozen armed carjackings as well as sporadic gunfire. Additionally, although the Taliban have asked government workers to return to work, government institutions in Kabul have been closed since 15 August. In related developments, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) blocked the country’s access to approximately 440 million U.S. dollars in Special Drawing Rights reserves due to the country’s lack of a formally recognized government.
In a sign of emerging opposition to Taliban rule, on 19 August demonstrators waving Afghan national flags gathered in Asadabad, the capital of Kunar province located near the border with Pakistan, for the Independence Day holiday. However, Taliban militants opened fire on the protesters, causing a stampede. Reports of fatalities have emerged, but specific details remain unknown, including the circumstances of the deaths. In a previous such occurrence on 18 August, demonstrators rallied in Nangarhar, Kunar and Khost provinces and removed Taliban flags, which the militant group had raised after gaining control, and raised the Afghan national flag. Taliban militants clashed with demonstrators in Nangarhar and Khost provinces. At least three people were killed in the city of Jalalabad, as previously reported in Hot Spots. Additionally, reports indicate that anti-Taliban forces have begun gathering in the Panjshir Valley region, located approximately 130 km (80) northeast of Kabul. Former First Vice President Amrull Saleh – who declared himself acting president – has fled to the region, and has joined with the country’s former defense minister and the son of a notable former anti-Taliban leader to announce the creation of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan.
In a reversal over previous statements, U.S. President Joe Biden stated that U.S. military personnel will remain at Hamid Karzai International Airport (OAKB/KBL) in Kabul until every U.S. national is evacuated, even if it requires remaining beyond the 31 August withdrawal deadline. Approximately 10,000-15,000 U.S. nationals remain in Afghanistan, with an undetermined number located outside of Kabul in areas where the U.S. government is unable to locate or contact them. U.S. military officials added that they are unable to assist U.S. nationals in reaching Hamid Karzai International Airport; additional details are available in the Government Warnings section below. U.S. authorities estimate that 50,000-60,000 Afghan nationals and their families may be evacuated. The U.S. and other countries continue to run evacuation flights out of the airport, but the situation there remains chaotic. U.S. military personnel have repeatedly fired live ammunition into the air to prevent crowds of civilians from rushing the airport tarmac.
Reports also indicate that the Taliban are inconsistent in allowing civilians to pass through checkpoints to reach the airport. Some individuals pass without incident, while the Taliban assault others. At other times, the Taliban fire their weapons into the air to clear people away from checkpoints. U.S. officials have stated that the Taliban have been allowing U.S. nationals to reach the airport but have often blocked Afghans.
Taliban militants have also assaulted journalists. Reports indicate that the militants attacked at least two journalists covering events in Jalalabad where the Taliban opened fire on Afghan nationalist protesters. The Taliban have also searched the homes of at least four media workers, including three employees of a German public broadcaster.
Burkina Faso (Security threat level – 4): On 18 August 2021, suspected Islamist militants engaged in clashes with security personnel in the northern Sahel region. According to the Communications Ministry, a military convoy was ambushed in an area located approximately 25 km (15 mi) from the town of Gorgadji, killing at least 47 people. The fatalities include 30 civilians, 14 soldiers and three members of the Volunteers for the Defense of the Motherland (VDP) anti-jihadist militia group. At least 16 militants were also reportedly killed in the subsequent fighting. Militants linked to transnational terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State have stepped up attacks in the Sahel region since early April; there have been at least two other attacks in the region targeting the Burkinabe military since the beginning of August.
Kenya (Security threat level – 4): On 19 August 2021, dozens of protesters gathered in the capital Nairobi shortly after President Uhuru Kenyatta extended the nationwide nightly curfew — which is in effect during the hours of 2200-0400 local time (1900-0100 UTC) — for an additional 60 days to demonstrate against police brutality connected to enforcement of coronavirus-related curfews. Security personnel used force to disperse protesters; there were no reports of injuries or arrests. In addition to the curfew, the government suspended all physical public gatherings and meetings until further notice. The increased restrictions were brought on by a high rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases, including the delta variant.
Afghanistan (Security threat level – 5): On 18 August 2021, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a Security Alert regarding ongoing evacuation flights, which reads in part as follows: “U.S. government-provided flights are departing. U.S. citizens, LPRs, and their spouses and unmarried children (under age 21) should consider travelling to Hamid Karzai International Airport. You should plan to enter the airport at Camp Sullivan. From the HKIA Airport South Traffic Circle, head east for 1km and turn right on to Camp Sullivan. Please note that gates may change frequently and that we will provide updates as necessary.
“THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT CANNOT ENSURE SAFE PASSAGE TO THE HAMID KARZAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.”