“I don’t want to sound like I have a great deal of confidence in the Taliban,” Mr. King said, adding, “All I can say is that it appears that, thus far, the Taliban has honored their commitment to allow Americans to leave.”

While the flight Thursday appeared to be a step toward resolving a diplomatic impasse that has left scores of Americans and other international workers stranded in Afghanistan, it was not clear if the Taliban would allow the tens of thousands of Afghans who once helped the U.S. government and now qualify for emergency U.S. visas to leave.

Taliban and foreign officials have said that Afghans with dual citizenship would be allowed to leave, but it was unclear whether any were on the first flight.

It also remained unclear whether charter flights from the airport in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, where dozens of Americans and hundreds of Afghans were waiting to leave the country, would be allowed to fly.

In recent days, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has said that the Taliban are to blame for the grounded flights, and that they claim some passengers on the manifesto do not have the proper documentation.

Mr. Price, the State Department spokesman, said the United States had “pulled every lever” to persuade the Taliban to allow flights to depart from Mazar-i-Sharif carrying not only American citizens and legal residents but also Afghans considered to be at high risk.

“It continues to be our contention that these individuals should be allowed to depart,” he said. “At the first possible opportunity.”

Paul Mozur and Marc Santora contributed reporting.

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Biden Defends Evacuation as Thousands Besiege Kabul Airport

LONDON — The desperate scenes at the Kabul airport reverberated around the world on Friday, forcing President Biden to defend his handling of the chaotic evacuation and fueling recrimination from American allies that are struggling to get their own citizens out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Mr. Biden insisted the American-led operation made “significant progress” after a rocky start, with nearly 6,000 American troops evacuating 5,700 Americans, Afghans, and others on Thursday. Flights were suspended for several hours on Friday to process the crush of people at the airport, but they were resuming, he said.

“We’re acting with dispatch,” Mr. Biden said at the White House. “Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home.”

their origin story and their record as rulers.

Signs of the Taliban’s tightening grip over the capital were everywhere on Friday. An activist posted a photo on Twitter of billboards of women’s faces outside a Kabul beauty salon that were blacked out.

Khalil Haqqani, the leader of one of the most powerful and violent Taliban factions, appeared at Friday prayers, the high point in the Islamic week. Mr. Haqqani, 48, is on both the U.S. and United Nations terrorist lists, responsible for kidnapping Americans, launching suicide attacks and conducting targeted assassinations. He is now playing a prominent role in the new Taliban government.

crystallized a sense in Britain that their leaders were asleep at the wheel — a striking turn for a NATO member that contributed more troops to the Afghan war than any but the United States. It has also hardened feelings toward the United States, which barely consulted its ally about the timing or logistics of the withdrawal.

British newspapers pointed out that Mr. Biden did not take a call from Prime Minister Boris Johnson until Tuesday, days after Britain requested it. Some British diplomats said they could not recall a time when an American president came under harsher criticism than Mr. Biden has in recent days.

“It shows that Biden wasn’t that desperate to get the prime minister’s input on the situation,” said Kim Darroch, a former British ambassador to Washington. “It’s all escalated a bit. It’s not a great sign.”

Reporting was contributed by Jim Huylebroek in Kabul, Carlotta Gall in Istanbul, Eric Schmitt and Zolan Kanno-Youngs in Washington, Nick Cummings-Bruce in Geneva, Steven Erlanger in Brussels, and Marc Santora in London.

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Chaos Ensues at Kabul Airport as Americans Abandon Afghanistan

ISTANBUL — Thousands of desperate Afghans trying to escape the Taliban takeover swarmed Kabul’s main international airport on Monday, rushing the boarding gates, mobbing the runways, clambering atop the wings of jets and even trying to cling to the fuselage of departing American military planes.

At least half a dozen Afghans were killed in the chaos, some falling from the skies as they lost their grasp, and at least two shot by American soldiers trying to contain the surging crowds.

The images evoked America’s frantic departure from Vietnam, encapsulating Afghanistan’s breathtaking collapse in the wake of American abandonment.

As American troops sought to manage the exodus, seizing air traffic control to prioritize military flights evacuating Western citizens and flying Apache helicopters low over the crowds to clear the runway, Taliban fighters capped a swift and devastating lunge for power, posing for an iconic photo behind the ornate presidential desk in the presidential palace hours after President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country.

quickly circulated around the world, seemed to speak louder than words.

In one extraordinary scene filmed by Afghan media, hundreds of people ran alongside an American military C-17 cargo plane and some tried to climb into the wheel wells or cling to the sides of the plane as it gathered speed, a striking symbol of America’s military might flying away even as Afghans hung on against all hope.

said that in the coming days it would evacuate thousands of American citizens, embassy employees and their families, and “particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals.”

The State Department said the United States evacuated 1,600 people from Afghanistan over the weekend, bringing the total number of people flown out to 3,600 since mid-July. The Pentagon said Monday evening that in the previous 48 hours some 700 Afghans who worked with the United States, along with their families, had been evacuated. The Pentagon is hoping to evacuate up to 5,000 people per day by later this week.

Other countries were also scrambling to evacuate their citizens. British officials said they were confident that they could remove some 3,000 Britons thought to be in Afghanistan but they said they were less sure about being able to provide a safe exit to the Afghans who aided the British and whose lives could now be at risk.

video posted on Facebook a Taliban commander driving a government police pickup truck outside the airport was asked about the hundreds of people seeking to fly out of the country. “They should not go,” he answered. “We will be here and we will bring peace and security now that we have left the corrupt regime behind us.”

Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and Lara Jakes contributed reporting from Washington, and Farnaz Fassihi from New York.

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Violence in Israel Challenges Biden’s ‘Stand Back’ Approach

At a briefing on Monday, Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, was asked about a tweet by Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, who said that the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, in a defense of the proposed evictions, had endorsed “ethnic cleansing.” Mr. Price said the claim was “not something that our analysis supports.”

Some analysts said that even if Mr. Biden shared the assessment that more pressure on Israel’s government would be effective, he might be wary of further exacerbating tensions with Israeli leaders anxious about his top priority in the Middle East: an effort to restore the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which Mr. Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials have long opposed.

Mr. Biden also took office at a moment of enormous political flux, with Israel in the midst of several failed efforts to form a lasting government and the Palestinians headed toward elections — since postponed, another source of the current unrest — that complicated efforts to devise a clear U.S. policy. Mr. Netanyahu is struggling to hold on to power, and U.S. officials say the influence of Mr. Abbas over Palestinian protests and violence, driven by militants and social media, is close to zero.

Mr. Biden also has memories from his days as vice president of Mr. Obama’s call for an Israeli settlement freeze and territorial concessions, which had little effect on policies over the long term but drew fierce political blowback from Republicans and some Democrats who said Mr. Obama failed to understand Israel’s security needs.

Republicans continue to exploit tensions in the Democratic Party over Israel policy. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump issued a statement charging that Mr. Biden’s “lack of support for Israel is leading to new attacks on our allies.” But it was unclear what support Mr. Trump felt the United States was not providing, given that his own statement of support for Israel’s “right to defend itself” matched Biden administration talking points.

Many Democrats, including Biden officials speaking privately, say that Mr. Trump is a key cause of the current problems. Halie Soifer, the chief executive of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said that Mr. Trump, who fulsomely supported Mr. Netanyahu’s pro-settlement policies and defied warnings of Palestinian unrest in moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, “was willing to intervene in Israeli domestic politics and elections to pursue his political agenda, regardless of its impact on the region or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Ms. Soifer said that Mr. Biden deserved credit for being a supporter, during the Obama administration, of Israel’s so-called Iron Dome antirocket system, which has been defending Israeli cities from incoming fire.

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Somalia Moves to Defuse Tensions Both at Home and Abroad

NAIROBI, Kenya — Days after Somalia’s president relented on plans to extend his term in office following street battles and international condemnation, his government announced Thursday that it would restore diplomatic relations with Kenya, ending a monthslong standoff that had injected an additional note of instability into an already-volatile region.

The Somali deputy minister of information said that Qatar had played a role in mediating between the two nations, and that the two sides would hold further talks in the near future on issues including trade and the movement of people.

The announcement, six months after Mogadishu severed relations with Nairobi, accusing it of “blatant interference” in its internal political affairs, came just days after tensions also ratcheted down on the domestic front.

On Saturday, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, facing huge domestic and international pressure, as well as infighting among rival security forces in the streets of the capital, backed down on a bid to extend his term and called for the resumption of election planning.

a statement, “The two governments agree to keep friendly relations between the two countries on the basis of principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, noninterference in each other’s internal affairs, equality, cooperation and peaceful coexistence.”

Kenya’s government said Thursday that it welcomed efforts to normalize relations between the two countries.

The severance of diplomatic relations in December was provoked by a number of tensions, some new and some longstanding.

Most recently, in December, Kenya hosted the president of Somaliland, a breakaway region in the northwest that has yet to gain international recognition. Mogadishu also accused Nairobi of interfering in the electoral process in Jubaland, a region in southern Somalia where Kenyan troops are stationed as part of the African Union peacekeeping mission.

For years, the two countries have also tussled over a sizable area in the Indian Ocean, leading to a high-profile court case at the International Court of Justice that Kenya has boycotted.

a onetime state official in Buffalo, N.Y., who returned to his homeland and began stoking nationalist passions, was accused of trying to hold onto power at whatever cost.

extended his term in office by two years — a move his opponents said he had orchestrated. That set off fierce fighting in the streets of Mogadishu that displaced between 60,000 and 100,000 people, according to the United Nations.

But last Saturday, Mr. Mohamed relented, asking the country’s prime minister to lead preparations for an election as lawmakers nullified his term extension.

On Tuesday, Mr. Mohamed spoke with the leader of Qatar, whose government he has depended on for financial and logistical backing. He also met with Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani, Qatar’s special envoy for counterterrorism and mediation of conflict resolution. Mr. al-Qahtani, who spent three days in the country, also met with other major political leaders.

met with President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday, said it was “not in the interest of Somalia and Kenya to have a less stable region.”

“We hope this step will bring prosperity to the two neighboring countries, their people, and the region,” he said.

Declan Walsh contributed reporting.

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Why an Estimated 100,000 Americans Abroad Face Passport Problems

Yona Shemesh, 24, was born in Los Angeles, but he moved to Israel with his family at age 9. In July 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic was raging, he booked a ticket to Los Angeles to visit his grandparents in June 2021, knowing that he would have nearly an entire year to renew his American passport, which had long since expired.

Eight months later, he was still trying to get an appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem to do just that.

About 9 million U.S. citizens currently live abroad, and as the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel finally appears, immigration lawyers estimate more than 100,000 can’t get travel documents to return to the United States.

Despite the State Department making headway on a massive backlog of passport applications in the early months of the pandemic, many consulates and embassies abroad, plagued by Covid-19 restrictions and staffing reductions, remain closed for all but emergency services. Travel is restarting, but for American expats who had a baby abroad in the past year or saw their passport expire during the pandemic, elusive appointments for documents are keeping them grounded.

The Jerusalem Post. American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy organization for U.S. expats, sent an official request to the State Department in October 2020 to prioritize Americans’ access to consular services abroad, “but people are still experiencing delays,” said the organization’s executive director, Marylouise Serrato.

In Mexico, which is believed to have more American expats than any other country, a recent search on the appointment database for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City showed zero available appointments for passport services, even with emergency circumstances (appointments from July onward have not yet been released).

ItsEasy Passport & Visa, a passport-and-visa-expediting service, said that many of them are so small that they’re nearly impossible to track.

“Since there is an online appointment system, anybody can log on, stockpile these appointments and resell them,” he said. “In the United States, they can be sold for $200 or $250, but out of the country they can charge much more.”

Mr. Shemesh got the broker’s phone number and transferred the money, and in one day, he had a confirmed appointment.

“I tried for eight months to get an appointment, and it was really a bummer because my money is something I have to work hard for. I paid more to renew my passport than I did on the ticket to Los Angeles. It felt like blackmail.”

Desperate Americans in other countries have considered paying for other services, as well.

Conner Gorry, 51, an American journalist who lives in Cuba, spent several frantic weeks trying to renew her expiring passport earlier this year. The U.S. Embassy in Havana is closed for all but emergency services. For six weeks, she tried to book an appointment, and received no response. Ms. Gorry grew so stressed that she developed gastritis, and at one point, she contemplated spending more than $13,000 to charter a plane from Havana to Miami, where she knew she would be able to renew her passport by mail.

She eventually found a flight out of Havana, and flew to the U.S. with one week left on her passport. She is unsure of when she will return to Cuba. The situation, she said, made her furious.

“The Covid thing is one thing. But the U.S. has citizens all over the world, and a diplomatic corps all over the world. What are they doing to protect and attend to us?”

Documents for American citizens within the United States are also getting stuck in the backlog. When Dayna and Brian Lee, who are Tony Award-winning producers of “Angels in America,” had twin baby girls in early April, the bureaucratic headaches started before they even brought their newborn daughters from the hospital to their home in New York City, where they have lived for several years.

The couple is originally from Toronto and their daughters, Emmy and Ella, are eligible for dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship but are currently without passports from either country. The infants must have American passports first so their parents can travel with them to Canada, where the girls will be able to also receive their Canadian passports. But for weeks after the girls were born, Mr. and Mrs. Lee were unable to book appointments at any U.S. passport office within a three-hour drive of New York City. They ended up turning to an immigration lawyer for help.

“It’s so inexplicably stressful, mixed up with the overwhelming joy of having these two beautiful lives in front of you,” Mr. Lee said. “But we’ve made the decision that come hell or high water, we will be with our families this summer.”

Elizabeth Goss, an immigration attorney based in Boston, said she expects delays and scheduling headaches for both visas and U.S. passports to last another year.

“It’s like a cruise ship that needs to readjust,” she said. “It’s not a speedboat.”


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Covid and Travel: Why an Estimated 100,000 Americans Abroad Face Passport Problems

Yona Shemesh, 24, was born in Los Angeles, but he moved to Israel with his family at age 9. In July 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic was raging, he booked a ticket to Los Angeles to visit his grandparents in June 2021, knowing that he would have nearly an entire year to renew his American passport, which had long since expired.

Eight months later, he was still trying to get an appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem to do just that.

About 9 million U.S. citizens currently live abroad, and as the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel finally appears, immigration lawyers estimate more than 100,000 can’t get travel documents to return to the United States.

Despite the State Department making headway on a massive backlog of passport applications in the early months of the pandemic, many consulates and embassies abroad, plagued by Covid-19 restrictions and staffing reductions, remain closed for all but emergency services. Travel is restarting, but for American expats who had a baby abroad in the past year or saw their passport expire during the pandemic, elusive appointments for documents are keeping them grounded.

The Jerusalem Post. American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy organization for U.S. expats, sent an official request to the State Department in October 2020 to prioritize Americans’ access to consular services abroad, “but people are still experiencing delays,” said the organization’s executive director, Marylouise Serrato.

In Mexico, which is believed to have more American expats than any other country, a recent search on the appointment database for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City showed zero available appointments for passport services, even with emergency circumstances (appointments from July onward have not yet been released).

ItsEasy Passport & Visa, a passport-and-visa-expediting service, said that many of them are so small that they’re nearly impossible to track.

“Since there is an online appointment system, anybody can log on, stockpile these appointments and resell them,” he said. “In the United States, they can be sold for $200 or $250, but out of the country they can charge much more.”

Mr. Shemesh got the broker’s phone number and transferred the money, and in one day, he had a confirmed appointment.

“I tried for eight months to get an appointment, and it was really a bummer because my money is something I have to work hard for. I paid more to renew my passport than I did on the ticket to Los Angeles. It felt like blackmail.”

Desperate Americans in other countries have considered paying for other services, as well.

Conner Gorry, 51, an American journalist who lives in Cuba, spent several frantic weeks trying to renew her expiring passport earlier this year. The U.S. Embassy in Havana is closed for all but emergency services. For six weeks, she tried to book an appointment, and received no response. Ms. Gorry grew so stressed that she developed gastritis, and at one point, she contemplated spending more than $13,000 to charter a plane from Havana to Miami, where she knew she would be able to renew her passport by mail.

She eventually found a flight out of Havana, and flew to the U.S. with one week left on her passport. She is unsure of when she will return to Cuba. The situation, she said, made her furious.

“The Covid thing is one thing. But the U.S. has citizens all over the world, and a diplomatic corps all over the world. What are they doing to protect and attend to us?”

Documents for American citizens within the United States are also getting stuck in the backlog. When Dayna and Brian Lee, who are Tony Award-winning producers of “Angels in America,” had twin baby girls in early April, the bureaucratic headaches started before they even brought their newborn daughters from the hospital to their home in New York City, where they have lived for several years.

The couple is originally from Toronto and their daughters, Emmy and Ella, are eligible for dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship but are currently without passports from either country. The infants must have American passports first so their parents can travel with them to Canada, where the girls will be able to also receive their Canadian passports. But for weeks after the girls were born, Mr. and Mrs. Lee were unable to book appointments at any U.S. passport office within a three-hour drive of New York City. They ended up turning to an immigration lawyer for help.

“It’s so inexplicably stressful, mixed up with the overwhelming joy of having these two beautiful lives in front of you,” Mr. Lee said. “But we’ve made the decision that come hell or high water, we will be with our families this summer.”

Elizabeth Goss, an immigration attorney based in Boston, said she expects delays and scheduling headaches for both visas and U.S. passports to last another year.

“It’s like a cruise ship that needs to readjust,” she said. “It’s not a speedboat.”


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Russia’s Ties With West Fray Further After Czech Republic Expels Its Diplomats

PRAGUE — Russia’s unraveling relations with the West took a dramatic turn for the worse on Thursday when the Czech Republic, furious over what it said were Moscow’s fingerprints on a military-style sabotage attack on a Czech weapons warehouse in 2014, ordered the expulsion of as many as 60 Russian diplomats.

The Czech move, announced a day after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia warned that the West risked a “fast and tough” response if it interfered with his country, escalated not only a diplomatic crisis between Prague and Moscow but a wider showdown between Russia and NATO, of which the Czech Republic is a member.

With Russian troops massing near the border with Ukraine and President Biden taking a tough stand against the Kremlin, Mr. Putin on Wednesday bluntly warned the West not to test Russia’s resolve in defending its interests, telling it not to cross unspecified “red lines” that he said would be defined by Russia.

The slashing of staff at Moscow’s embassy in Prague does not directly challenge Russian security. But it will severely damage intelligence operations, something that Mr. Putin, a K.G.B. officer in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, views as vitally important.

ordered out 20 Czech diplomats. Russia, which has used its Prague embassy as a center of espionage across the region, according to intelligence experts, previously had far more diplomats in the city than the Czech Republic had in Moscow.

Sergei V. Skripal, in the English town of Salisbury.

Two Russians identified by Britain as the main culprits in the Salisbury attack, both members of a military intelligence sabotage and assassination squad known as Unit 29155, turned out to be the same men Czech investigators had long suspected of involvement in the ammunition warehouse blasts but had not been able to identify.

Both men arrived in the Czech Republic under false names several days before the blasts and traveled to the site of the warehouse in Vrbetice, leaving on the day of the first explosion on Oct. 16, 2014.

Miroslav Mares, an expert on security policy at Masaryk University in the Czech city of Brno, said the Czech Republic wanted to “demonstrate its self-confidence and capability for resilience toward Russian aggressive behavior.” But he added that “the final effect strongly depends on support from Czech allies in the European Union and NATO.”

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Pakistan

Pakistan’s Parliament is expected to vote on Tuesday on whether to expel the French ambassador, a move widely seen as a capitulation by the government to a militant Islamist party that has led large protests and clashed with the police.

The vote illustrates how deeply unsettled Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration’s feels amid a reeling economy, a new wave of coronavirus infections and spreading social unrest. It also suggests the party, Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan, which has capitalized on public anger over the publication of caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad in France, could pose a major threat to Pakistan’s stability.

Just a week ago, the government declared Tehreek-e-Labaik a terrorist outfit and banned it. At least four police officers have been killed in clashes with the group, and at least 11 officers have at one point been taken hostage. Police officials acknowledged the death of three protesters, but the party claims that a larger number of their supporters have been killed.

Intermittent protests since last winter were sparked by President Emmanuel Macron of France, who last year gave a defiant eulogy for a French teacher who was murdered after showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a classroom. Mr. Macron said the teacher, Samuel Paty, was killed “because the Islamists want our future and they know that with quiet heroes like him they will never have it.”

Salman Taseer, the sitting governor of Punjab Province. At the time, Mr. Taseer sought justice for a Christian woman who had been jailed on dubious charges of blasphemy.

Mr. Qadri was eventually sentenced and hanged in 2016, but the group tried to free him by justifying the murder he committed. Since then, it has shaped itself into a political party contesting elections and continuing to unsettle governments.

On Tuesday, it was clear Mr. Khan’s government had made some concessions to the group, while trying to give itself political cover by putting the ambassador’s expulsion to a vote in Parliament.

Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, Pakistan’s interior minister, said the 11 police officers who were taken hostage during the week of protests had been released. He also said that Tehreek-e-Labaik have pledged to call off a nationwide protest while the government seeks a dialogue with France.

“After long negotiations between the government of Pakistan and Tehreek-e-Labaik, it has been agreed that the government will present a resolution on the expulsion of the French ambassador to the National Assembly today,” Mr. Ahmad said in a video message early on Tuesday.

Mr. Ahmad said that, as part of the agreement, any judicial proceedings against the members of the group would also be scrapped. The National Assembly, Pakistan’s legislature, which was not scheduled to meet on Tuesday, announced a special session for the afternoon to take up the expulsion resolution.

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In Russia, a Military Buildup That Can’t be Missed

MASLOVKA, Russia — Deep in a pine forest in southern Russia, military trucks, their silhouettes blurred by camouflage netting, appear through the trees. Soldiers in four-wheel-drive vehicles creep along rutted dirt roads. And outside a newly pitched tent camp, sentries, Kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders, pace back and forth.

Over the past month or so, Russia has deployed what analysts are calling the largest military buildup along the border with Ukraine since the outset of Kyiv’s war with Russian-backed separatists seven years ago.

It is far from a clandestine operation: During a trip to southern Russia by a New York Times journalist, evidence of the buildup was everywhere to be seen.

The mobilization is setting off alarms in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, European capitals and Washington, and is increasingly seen as an early foreign policy test for the Biden administration, which just hit Moscow with a new round of sanctions. Russia responded almost immediately, announcing on Friday that it would expel 10 U.S. diplomats.

“Solar Winds” hacking of government agencies and corporations, various disinformation efforts and the annexation of Crimea.

told European lawmakers on Wednesday that Russia is now garrisoning about 110,000 soldiers near the Ukrainian border. In Washington, the director of the C.I.A. told Congress that it remains unclear whether the buildup is a show of force or preparation for something more ominous.

Even if the goal of the buildup remains unclear, military analysts say it was most certainly meant to be seen. A show of force is hardly a good show if nobody watches.

“They are deploying in a very visible way,” said Michael Kofman, a senior researcher at CNA, a think tank based in Arlington, Va., who has been monitoring the military activity. “They are doing it overtly, so we can see it. It is intentional.”

foreign reporters have been showing up daily to watch the buzz of activity.

Conflict Intelligence Team, a group of independent Russian military analysts.

Gigantic military trucks are parked within sight of the roads, which have, strangely, remained open to public traffic.

news release to announce the redeployment of the naval landing craft closer to Ukraine, in case anybody was curious. The vessels sailed along rivers and canals connecting the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. The ministry posted pictures.

forces for a possible incursion.

But Mr. Burns said U.S. officials were still trying to determine if the Kremlin was preparing for military action or merely sending a signal.

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