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2021-08-27 13:33:36

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automatic winding machineautomatic winding machineautomatic winding machineautomatic winding machine,The blasts that killed 13 US service members and left scores of people dead and wounded near the gates of the Kabul airport serve as a powerful reminder of the threats in Afghanistan and the challenges that lie ahead as America tries to disengage. While President Joe Biden has committed to ending the 20-year military campaign in Afghanistan -- triggered by the Taliban's refusal to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 terrorist attacks -- the US will continue to face tough choices there.Even before Thursday's horrific attack, the images at the airport were difficult to watch. The future of the Afghan people was painful to consider, and the notion of a US relationship with the Taliban was hard to countenance. But facts are stubborn things and it's time to confront the harsh reality: the Taliban have won the war and the United States will have to decide how to deal with the leaders of the sanctioned terrorist group after the last American soldier leaves Kabul.America's commitment to helping the Afghan people should not end after the final flight fades out of the view of those who remain in the country. That's not just a moral issue. As we learned after 9/11, Afghanistan can easily become an incubator for terrorism. The threat is all the more real considering there is evidence the Taliban still have close ties to Al Qaeda.For now, we're focused on the tragic scenes unfolding at the airport. But what to do after that mission ends? The US' longest war has killed more than 2,300 troops and cost more than $2 trillion dollars. Now, two decades after the US toppled the Taliban, the extremist group is back in power. Every country -- including the US -- will have to decide what kind of relationship it will have with Afghanistan.Should the United States grant diplomatic recognition to a Taliban-led government?Listen to US officials speak and it's clear they are watching their words, trying to avoid antagonizing the radical jihadis for fear of jeopardizing the airlift that has carried more than 104,000 souls to safety since August 14. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gingerly sidestepped a question about the future of the US Embassy in Kabul on Wednesday, saying, "With regard to diplomatic engagement, we're looking at a series of options, and I'm sure we'll have more on that in the coming days and weeks, but we're looking at a variety of options."But we don't all need to watch our words. Let me say unequivocally: The United States cannot recognize a Taliban-led government -- certainly not any time soon.Judging by the conciliatory tone the Taliban spokesmen struck after the takeover, the group is interested in repairing its reputation and gaining international recognition. But words mean little, especially when there's a long track record of repugnant behavior. This is the group that sentenced women and girls to crushing restrictions that prevented them from studying, working or leaving their homes on their own. The Taliban forced women to cover their faces in public, buried them up to their necks and stoned them to death after claims of adultery. They also killed homosexuals, chopped off the hands of suspected thieves, and generally forced an entire country to live under draconian rules. Their words alone won't do.So far, evidence that the Taliban has changed is mixed, at best. Already women have been told to stay home, for their safety. (Stay home, they are told, so you can be protected from us.) Prominent female journalists have reportedly been taken off the air and there is evidence that much worse unfolded as the Taliban swept toward Kabul.The United States, its allies, and the rest of the international community should condition any formal recognition of the Taliban on three areas. First, the Taliban must show they are committed to keeping the country from becoming a terrorist haven, as they promised in the February 2020 accord with the Trump administration. Thursday's attacks also raise questions about the Taliban's capacity to fend off groups like ISIS, which has tried to establish a foothold in Afghanistan. Second, the Taliban must actively prove that they are not engaging in the human rights abuses that devastated the lives of so many women and young girls the last time they were in power. And, finally, the Taliban must reach beyond their own ranks to form an inclusive government where ethnic minorities, moderate Muslims, and women play a role. That, at least, is the goal.In the words of Fawzia Koofi, a women's rights activist who was elected to the Afghan parliament and was part of the former government's team that negotiated with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, no Afghan government will be legitimate without the presence of women. The US should not recognize a government deemed illegitimate by its own people.Blinken said the US is working with its allies to send a unified message to the Taliban "on counterterrorism, on humanitarian assistance, on our expectations of a future Afghan government."If the Taliban revert to their old ways, the US should do everything it can to lead an international campaign that denies formal recognition and restricts the Taliban's access to funding. Already the US has frozen Afghan reserves in American banks and the European Union has suspended $1.4 billion in aid. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund is blocking access to emergency currency worth hundreds of millions of dollars.Sure, if the West freezes out the Taliban, it can still turn to others. China, deliberately turning a blind eye toward human rights abuses, is hungry for Afghan minerals and intent on establishing "friendly" relations. Along with China, Russia is also eager to improve ties. Pakistan has long-standing links to the group, as does Saudi Arabia.Despite this, China doesn't want to see Afghanistan become a new base for terrorism. The same is true for Afghanistan's other neighbors, many of which could face domestic insurgencies drawing inspiration -- or territorial support, as al Qaeda did -- from the Taliban.But with or without US diplomatic recognition, the harsh, unsavory reality is that the Taliban are now in charge. One way or another, the US will have to communicate with its leaders. After the airlift, the campaign will inevitably move to the diplomatic arena. The US' aim now will be to pressure the new Afghan leaders from harboring terrorists and reverting to their appalling ways. The prospects look harrowing for the Afghan people, and the choices for the United States and its allies are going to be wrenching. That's another stubborn fact that is unlikely to change.Three quarters of the world's top banks do business in Hong Kong. But they've been getting squeezed by changes forcing them to fall in line with Beijing's agenda — and there may be signs of even tougher times to come.Financial institutions have been grappling with rising geopolitical risks, which have put pressure on how they operate in Hong Kong. The latest blow: orders to block access to retirement funds for Hong Kongers looking to leave the city on special British passports issued largely during colonial rule.This month, politicians also floated a new anti-sanctions bill that would bar foreign entities and individuals in Hong Kong from complying with sanctions against China, which now controls the former British colony. Experts say this could create headaches for financial institutions in the city, due to the global nature of their work.The bill was expected to be passed in Beijing last week, but the vote was postponed, according to Tam Yiu-chung, the Hong Kong delegate of the National People's Congress Standing Committee. He said the the delay would give authorities more time to deliberate details, suggesting an eventual return.Its likely implementation means that "most people expect that financial institutions in Hong Kong are going to be on the front lines," according to Nick Turner, a lawyer at Steptoe & Johnson who advises banks on economic sanctions."They're integrated into the international economy. They handle a lot of transactions between the United States and Hong Kong and the rest of the world. And so they have some exposure to US law," he said. "That's where the real conflict could exist."A precarious positionBig global financial institutions, such as HSBC (HSBC), AIA (AAGIY) and Manulife (MFC), have already been put in a tough spot over tighter curbs on access to pensions.In January, the Hong Kong government said it would no longer recognize British National (Overseas) passports as valid proof of identity. That led to another announcement this spring, which prevented people from using BN(O) passports for the early withdrawal of mandatory provident funds (MPFs). Millions of residents store their retirement savings in such accounts, which can typically be accessed at the age of 65.The move effectively locked out those passport holders from cashing out their savings early if they wanted to move abroad.AIA, Manulife and HSBC all told CNN Business that they would process applications to access such savings in accordance with regulatory requirements.Banks are no stranger to the political melee.HSBC has become a prominent case study. The London-based lender caught heat on all sides after signaling its support for a controversial national security law Beijing imposed on Hong Kong last summer.The company also faced scrutiny this year after Hong Kong police froze the accounts of former pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui and his family, an order HSBC said it had little choice but to comply with. The incident led to a furore among foreign politicians, with CEO Noel Quinn summoned for questioning by British lawmakers.Bracing for impactHong Kong has long been one of the world's leading financial hubs. But businesses have found themselves in the difficult position of balancing rising tensions between the West and Beijing.?The anti-sanctions bill is the latest example, as it would allow Beijing to impose countermeasures on companies upholding sanctions against China. It follows a similar law passed in the mainland in June, which was seen as a response to restrictions imposed on China by the United States and the European Union."There's a push and pull here. And for sure, the banks are right in the middle of it," said Paul Schulte, a former Hong Kong investment banker who now runs Schulte Research, a company that tracks banking and fintech.Turner, who is based in Hong Kong, said that banks have been "paying close attention" to the matter, placing a "high" level of concern on how the law could reshape their compliance programs, among other scenarios."But they want to see exactly how the law will be implemented in Hong Kong before they take specific steps," he noted. "For example: thinking about where they locate their compliance staff, how they carry on certain operational procedures, or whether or not they're going to adopt different policies for their Hong Kong and Chinese entities, as opposed to their global entities."Even Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam became a face of the geopolitical tensions, after suggesting last year that US sanctions were forcing banks to avoid dealing with her.Lam was one of dozens of Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials sanctioned over the past year by the United States, which accused them of undermining Hong Kong's autonomy.Those restrictions cut the city's top leader off from the American financial system."I don't have a bank account," Lam told Hong Kong International Business Channel, a local TV station, in November. "I have piles of cash at home, because the government is paying me cash for my salary."Asked whether the new law could take aim at banks that restricted Lam and other officials, Turner said it was too early to tell."People are very interested to know [this], but that might not be the case," he added.Potential targetsSome banks, however, are already being seen as potential targets.Schulte said that HSBC was "for sure" one of the biggest examples, primarily due to the size of its presence in Hong Kong, its biggest market. In addition to its own operations, the British lender has a controlling stake in Hang Seng Bank, a top local player."Those are going to be targets, because they own the market," said Schulte, adding that Standard Chartered (SCBFF) could also be exposed "to a secondary extent."HSBC, Hang Seng Bank and Standard Chartered all declined to comment on the anti-sanctions law.Businesses are wary of possible countermeasures if they comply with sanctions against China, which could include deportations, the denial of visas and the seizure of company assets. The anti-sanctions law in the mainland already allows for such consequences, though officials haven't indicated whether the same should be expected in Hong Kong.Schulte floated another scenario, in which he suggested firms could risk losing their Chinese business licenses for certain divisions if their colleagues in other jurisdictions complied with sanctions against China."What about other parts of the world where Chinese and foreign incorporated banks located in Hong Kong are complying with American demands?" he said. "In Geneva, London, Zurich, Paris ... Frankfurt. That's where it can get very hot under the collar."The ongoing challenges are simply another sign of how banks in Hong Kong are navigating a new normal, according to Schulte, who previously worked with the White House National Security Council in the 1980s."There is a cold war that is intensifying very quickly in front of our eyes," he said. "And really, [they're being told,] 'You got to pick a side.'"— Jadyn Sham, Eric Cheung and Carly Walsh contributed to this report.