an immediate pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine after six recipients in the United States developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within one to three weeks of vaccination.

  • All 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico temporarily halted or recommended providers pause the use of the vaccine. The U.S. military, federally run vaccination sites and a host of private companies, including CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart and Publix, also paused the injections.
  • Fewer than one in a million Johnson & Johnson vaccinations are now under investigation. If there is indeed a risk of blood clots from the vaccine — which has yet to be determined — that risk is extremely low. The risk of getting Covid-19 in the United States is far higher.
  • The pause could complicate the nation’s vaccination efforts at a time when many states are confronting a surge in new cases and seeking to address vaccine hesitancy.
  • Johnson & Johnson has also decided to delay the rollout of its vaccine in Europe amid concerns over rare blood clots, dealing another blow to Europe’s inoculation push. South Africa, devastated by a more contagious virus variant that emerged there, suspended use of the vaccine as well. Australia announced it would not purchase any doses.
  • “The virus can spread across borders, but mankind’s love also transcends borders,” he told reporters.

    This week China’s main Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer, Sinovac, made a gesture that is certain to fuel speculation about Beijing’s plans in Paraguay. The South American soccer federation Conmebol, which is based in Paraguay, announced it was receiving a donation of 50,000 doses of CoronaVac, the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Beijing-based Sinovac.

    “The leaders of this company have understood the enormous social and cultural value of soccer in South American countries,” the federation’s president, Alejandro Domínguez, said in a statement, calling the donation a “noble gesture.”

    Despite all these signals, Taiwan’s position in Paraguay may be safer than it appears, said Lee McClenny, who served as the U.S. ambassador in Paraguay until last September. While cabinet members and businessmen have pressured President Mario Abdo Benítez to forge ties with China, the Chinese government didn’t show much interest in getting Paraguay to flip, he said.

    “On the ground I didn’t see very effective efforts to make this happen,” Mr. McClenny said.

    Besides, Mr. McClenny added, the Paraguayan president takes a special pride in the relationship with Taiwan, which was brokered in the 1950s by his late father, who served as the personal secretary to Alfredo Stroessner, the dictator who ran the country for 35 years. And Taiwanese aid has made a major impact in the landlocked, impoverished nation.

    “It’s effective and benefits people’s lives in real ways,” Mr. McClenny said about Taiwan’s assistance.

    The Biden administration has signaled its unease about the prospect that Paraguay could cut a deal with China. In a phone call with Mr. Abdo Benítez last month, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken urged the Paraguay government to continue to “work with democratic and global partners, including Taiwan, to overcome this global pandemic,” according to a summary of the call provided by the State Department.

    That message rankles opposition lawmakers, including the leftist Senator Esperanza Martínez, who served as health minister from 2008 to 2012. Ms. Martínez has long favored establishing relations with China, arguing that Paraguay stands to benefit in the long run by expanding trade. She said Washington’s exhortation was immoral.

    “We’re being loyal to people who impose rules on us while we die,” she said. “Our allies are vaccinating people morning, afternoon and night while they block us from getting vaccines, saying we’ll turn into communists.”

    Ernesto Londoño reported from Rio de Janeiro. Santi Carneri contributed reporting from Asunción, Amy Qin contributed reporting from Taipei, Taiwan and Sui-Lee Wee contributed reporting from Singapore.

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    Biden’s Afghan Pullout Is a Victory for Pakistan. But at What Cost?

    Near the peak of the American war in Afghanistan, a former chief of neighboring Pakistan’s military intelligence — an institution allied both to the U.S. military and to its Taliban adversaries — came on a talk show called “Joke Night” in 2014. He put a bold prediction on the record.

    “When history is written,” declared Gen. Hamid Gul, who led the feared spy service known as the I.S.I. during the last stretch of the Cold War in the 1980s, “it will be stated that the I.S.I. defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan with the help of America.”

    “Then there will be another sentence,” General Gul added after a brief pause, delivering his punchline to loud applause. “The I.S.I., with the help of America, defeated America.”

    In President Biden’s decision to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan by September, Pakistan’s powerful military establishment finally gets its wish after decades of bloody intrigue: the exit of a disruptive superpower from a backyard where it had established strong influence through a friendly Taliban regime before the U.S. invaded in 2001.

    social unrest, agitation by oppressed minorities and a percolating Islamic militancy of its own that it is struggling to contain.

    If Afghanistan descends into chaos, Pakistanis are bound to feel the burden again just as they did after Afghanistan disintegrated in the 1990s following the Soviet withdrawal. Millions of Afghan refugees crossed the porous border to seek relative safety in Pakistan’s cities and towns.

    thousands of religious seminaries spread across Pakistan. Those groups have shown no hesitation in antagonizing the country’s government.

    bitter about the double role played by the I.S.I. The killing of Bin Laden in Pakistan by U.S. forces in 2011 was one rare moment when those tensions played out in public.

    But Pakistan’s generals were also successful in making themselves indispensable to the United States — offering a nuclear-armed ally in a region where China, Russia and Islamist militants all had interests. Effectively, it meant that the United States chose to turn a blind eye as its Pakistani allies helped the Taliban wear down American and allied forces in Afghanistan.

    Pakistan was 50 times more important to the United States than Afghanistan was.

    In recent years, as American officials sought a way to leave Afghanistan, they again had to turn to Pakistan — to pressure the Taliban to come to peace talks, and to lend help when the United States needed to move against Al Qaeda or the Islamic State affiliate in the region.

    With the U.S. intention to leave publicly declared, Pakistan did away with any semblance of denial that the Taliban leadership was sheltering there. Taliban leaders flew from Pakistani cities to engage in peace talks in Qatar. When negotiations reached delicate moments that required consultations with field commanders, they flew back to Pakistan.

    When the United States finally signed a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban in February last year, the mood in some circles in Pakistan was one of open celebration.

    Pakistan’s former defense minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, who had repeatedly visited the halls of power in Washington as a U.S. ally, tweeted a photo of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meeting Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban deputy at the talks in Qatar.

    “You might have might on your side, but God is with us,” Mr. Asif said in the tweet, ending with a cry of victory. “Allah u Akbar!”

    But there are signs that extremist groups within Pakistan have already felt emboldened by the Taliban’s perceived victory, giving a glimpse of the trouble likely to be in store for Pakistani officials.

    The once-defeated Pakistani Taliban have increased their activities in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Ambushes against security forces have become more frequent.

    Just how wide the problem of extremism might stretch has been on display in recent days on the streets of two of Pakistan’s main cities, Lahore and Karachi.

    Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, a movement that sees itself as protecting Islam against blasphemy, thrashed uniformed members of Pakistani forces and took dozens hostage for hours. Videos emerged of Pakistani army officers trying to reason with the violent protesters. Officials said two policemen had been killed, and 300 wounded. The showdown continues, as the government moved to ban the group as a terrorist outfit.

    “The state was not able to control the stick-yielding and stone-hurling members of the T.L.P. that paralyzed most parts of the country for two days,” said Afrasiab Khattak, a former chairman of Pakistan’s human rights commission. “How will they handle trained, guns-carrying Taliban militants?”

    Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

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    Vaccines Won’t Protect Millions of Patients With Weakened Immune Systems

    For more than a year, Dr. Andrew Wollowitz has mostly been cloistered inside his home in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

    As chief of emergency medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, Dr. Wollowitz, 63, was eager to help treat patients when the coronavirus began raging through the city last spring. But a cancer treatment in 2019 had obliterated his immune cells, leaving him defenseless against the virus, so he instead arranged to manage his staff via Zoom.

    A year later, people in Dr. Wollowitz’s life are returning to some semblance of normalcy. His wife, a dancer and choreographer, is preparing to travel for work at Austria’s National Ballet Company. His vaccinated friends are getting together, but he sees them only when the weather is nice enough to sit in his backyard. “I spend very little time in public areas,” he said.

    Like his friends, Dr. Wollowitz was vaccinated in January. But he did not produce any antibodies in response — nor did he expect to. He is one of millions of Americans who are immunocompromised, whose bodies cannot learn to deploy immune fighters against the virus.

    as high as 55 percent.

    Most people who have lived with immune deficiencies for a long time are likely to be aware of their vulnerability. But others have no idea that medications may have put them at risk.

    “They’ll be walking around outside thinking they’re protected — but maybe they’re not,” said Dr. Lee Greenberger, chief scientific officer of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which funds research on blood cancers.

    The only recourse for these patients — apart from sheltering in place until the virus has retreated — may be to receive regular infusions of monoclonal antibodies, which are mass-produced copies of antibodies obtained from people who have recovered from Covid-19. The Food and Drug Administration has authorized several monoclonal antibody treatments for Covid-19, but now some are also being tested to prevent infections.

    Convalescent plasma or gamma globulin — antibodies distilled from the blood of healthy donors — may also help immunocompromised people, although a version of the latter that includes antibodies to the coronavirus is still months from availability.

    compassionate use program. (Regeneron released trial results this week showing that the cocktail reduces symptomatic infections by 81 percent in people with normal immune systems.)

    It’s unclear how many immunocompromised people don’t respond to coronavirus vaccines. But the list seems at least to include survivors of blood cancers, organ transplant recipients, and anyone who takes the widely used drug Rituxan, or the cancer drugs Gazyva or Imbruvica — all of which kill or block B cells, the immune cells that churn out antibodies — or Remicade, a popular drug for treating inflammatory bowel disease. It may also include some people over age 80 whose immune responses have faltered with age.

    “We’re extremely concerned and interested in trying to see how we might be able to help those particular patients,” said Dr. Elad Sharon, an immunotherapy expert at the National Cancer Institute.

    As the pandemic spread, doctors who specialize in treating blood cancers or who care for immunocompromised people expected at least some of their patients to encounter difficulties. Dr. Charlotte Cunningham-Rundles, an immunologist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, has about 600 patients who are almost entirely dependent on getting regular doses of gamma globulin to stay safe from pathogens.

    Even so, 44 of her patients became infected with the coronavirus; four died, and another four or five had long-term illnesses. (Chronic infections may offer opportunities for the virus to evolve into dangerous variants.)

    registry to provide information and antibody tests to people with blood cancers. And several studies are assessing the response to coronavirus vaccines in people with cancer, autoimmune conditions like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, or who take drugs that mute the immune response.

    In one such study, British researchers followed nearly 7,000 people with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis from 90 hospitals in the country. They found that less than half of patients who took Remicade mounted an immune response following coronavirus infection.

    were protected after a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine and only 27 percent after a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. (In Britain, the current practice is to delay second doses to stretch vaccine availability.)

    Likewise, another study published last month indicated that fewer than 15 percent of patients with cancers of blood or the immune system, and fewer than 40 percent of those with solid tumors, produced antibodies after receiving a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

    And a study published last month in the journal JAMA reported that only 17 percent of 436 transplant recipients who got one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine had detectable antibodies three weeks later.

    Despite the low odds, immunocompromised people should still get the vaccines because they may produce some immune cells that are protective, even antibodies in a subset of patients.

    “These patients should probably be prioritized for optimally timed two doses,” said Dr. Tariq Ahmad, a gastroenterologist at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust who was involved in the infliximab studies.

    He suggested that clinicians routinely measure antibody responses in immunocompromised people even after two vaccine doses, so as to identify those who also may need monoclonal antibodies to prevent infection or a third dose of the vaccines.

    Wendy Halperin, 54, was diagnosed at age 28 with a condition called common variable immunodeficiency. She was hospitalized with Covid-19 in January and remained there for 15 days. But the coronavirus induced unusual symptoms.

    “I was having trouble walking,” she recalled. “I just lost control of my limbs, like I couldn’t walk down the street.”

    Because she was treated for Covid-19 with convalescent plasma, Ms. Halperin has had to wait three months to be immunized and has made an appointment for April 26. But despite her condition, her body did manage to produce some antibodies to the initial infection.

    “The take home message is that everybody should try and get the vaccine,” said Dr. Amit Verma, an oncologist at Montefiore Medical Center.

    The gamble did not pay off in Dr. Wollowitz’s case. Without antibodies in his system to protect him, he is still working from home — a privilege he is grateful for. He was an avid mountain biker and advanced skier, both of which carry risk of injury, but with the coronavirus, he is playing it safe.

    In anticipation of returning to his normal lifestyle, Dr. Wollowitz is tuning his bicycles. But he said he foresaw himself living this way till enough other people are vaccinated and the number of infections in the city drops.

    “I’m not exactly sure what that date is,” he said. “I’m really waiting to get back out.”

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    Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, Visits Afghanistan

    Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, less than a day after President Biden formally announced plans to withdraw all remaining troops from the country by Sept. 11. The trip was intended to signal continued cooperation amid the major shift in policy.

    The withdrawal, which comes nearly 20 years after the United States first sent troops to Afghanistan, has raised profound questions within the country about its effect on Afghan civilians and the ability of the government and the Taliban to negotiate a peace deal.

    Mr. Biden, laying out his plan in an address to the nation on Wednesday afternoon, said the country could no longer “continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan.”

    Following the president’s announcement, NATO’s foreign and defense ministers agreed to begin withdrawing NATO forces on May 1 and finish “within a few months,” the alliance said in a statement.

    Hours later, Mr. Blinken arrived in Kabul for the unannounced and brief trip, during which he visited the United States Embassy and then met with Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president, and Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the Afghan government council that has led peace negotiations with the Taliban. By Thursday evening, Mr. Blinken had departed for Washington.

    “I wanted to demonstrate with my visit the ongoing commitment of the United States to the Islamic Republic and the people of Afghanistan,” Mr. Blinken said before his meeting with Mr. Ghani began. “The partnership is changing, but the partnership is enduring.”

    Mr. Ghani said the Afghan government respected the decision and was “adjusting our priorities.”

    Mr. Blinken and Mr. Ghani “discussed the importance of preserving the gains of the last 20 years, especially in building a strong civil society and protecting the rights of women and girls,” said Ned Price, a spokesman for the State Department.

    The pair also spoke about counterterrorism cooperation and their shared commitment to ensuring that Al Qaeda does not regain a foothold in Afghanistan.

    Mr. Blinken then met with Mr. Abdullah, who said he was grateful to the American people and the Biden administration.

    “We have a new chapter, but it’s a new chapter that we’re writing together,” Mr. Abdullah added.

    Mr. Blinken had traveled to Afghanistan from Brussels, where, alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, he briefed NATO officials on the decision to withdraw American troops.

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    How Mario Draghi Has Made Italy a Power Player in Europe

    ROME — The European Union was stumbling through a Covid-19 vaccine rollout marred by shortages and logistical bungling in late March when Mario Draghi took matters into his own hands. The new Italian prime minister seized a shipment of vaccines destined for Australia — and along with them, an opportunity to show that a new, aggressive and potent force had arrived in the European bloc.

    The move shook up a Brussels leadership that had seemed to be asleep at the switch. Within weeks, in part from his pressing and engineering behind the scenes, the European Union had authorized even broader and harsher measures to curb exports of Covid-19 vaccines badly needed in Europe. The Australia experiment, as officials in Brussels and Italy call it, was a turning point, both for Europe and Italy.

    It also demonstrated that Mr. Draghi, renowned as the former European Central Bank president who helped save the euro, was prepared to lead Europe from behind, where Italy has found itself for years, lagging behind its European partners in economic dynamism and much-needed reforms.

    In his short time in office — he took power in February after a political crisis — Mr. Draghi has quickly leveraged his European relationships, his skill in navigating E.U. institutions and his nearly messianic reputation to make Italy a player on the continent in a way it has not been in decades.

    denied her a chair, rather than a sofa, during a visit to Turkey last week, saying he was “very sorry for the humiliation.”

    In his debut in a European meeting as Italy’s prime minister in February, Mr. Draghi, 73, made it clear that he was not there to cheerlead. He told an economic summit including heavy hitters like his European Central Bank successor, Christine Lagarde, to “curb your enthusiasm” when it came to talk about a closer fiscal union.

    That sort of union is Mr. Draghi’s long-term ambition. But before he can get anywhere near that, or tackle deep economic problems at home, those around him say Mr. Draghi is keenly aware that his priority needs to be solving Europe’s response to the pandemic.

    Italian officials say his distance from the contract negotiations, which were completed before he took office, gave him a freedom to act. He suggested that AstraZeneca had misled the bloc about its supply of vaccine, selling Europe the same doses two or three times, and he immediately zeroed in on an export ban.

    “He understood straightaway that the issue was vaccinations and the problem was supplies,” said Lia Quartapelle, a member of Parliament in charge of foreign affairs for Italy’s Democratic Party.

    On Feb. 25, he joined a European Council videoconference with Ms. von der Leyen and other European Union leaders. The heads of state warmly welcomed him. “We owe you so much,” Bulgaria’s prime minister told him.

    Then Ms. von der Leyen gave an optimistic slide presentation about Europe’s vaccine rollout. But the new member of the club bluntly told Ms. von der Leyen that he found her vaccine forecast “hardly reassuring” and that he didn’t know whether the numbers promised by AstraZeneca could be trusted, according to an official present at the meeting.

    He implored Brussels to get tougher and go faster.

    Ms. Merkel joined him in scrutinizing Ms. von der Leyen’s numbers, which put the Commission president, a former German defense minister, on the back foot. Mr. Macron, who had championed Ms. von der Leyen’s nomination but quickly formed a strategic alliance with Mr. Draghi, piled on. He urged Brussels, which had negotiated the vaccine contracts on behalf of its members, to “put pressure on corporations not complying.”

    At the time, Ms. von der Leyen was coming under withering criticism in Germany for her perceived weakness on the vaccine issue, even as her own commissioners argued that responding too aggressively with a vaccine export ban could hurt the bloc down the road.

    Mr. Draghi, with his direct talk during the February meeting, tightened the screws. So did Mr. Macron, who has emerged as his partner — the two are dubbed “Dracon” by the Germans — pushing for a more muscular Europe.

    Behind the scenes, Mr. Draghi complemented his more public hard line with a courting campaign. The Italian, who is known to privately call European leaders and pharmaceutical chief executives on their cellphones, reached out to Ms. von der Leyen.

    Of all the players in Europe, he knew her the least well, according to European Commission and Italian officials, and he wanted to remedy that and make sure she did not feel isolated.

    Then, in early March, as shortages of AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine continued to disrupt Europe’s rollout and increase public frustration and political pressure, Mr. Draghi found the perfect gift for Ms. von der Leyen: 250,000 doses of seized AstraZeneca vaccine earmarked for Australia.

    “He told me that in the days before he was on the phone a lot with von der Leyen,” said Ms. Quartapelle, who spoke with Mr. Draghi the day after the shipment freeze. “He worked a lot with von der Leyen to convince her.”

    The move was appreciated in Brussels, according to officials in the Commission, because it took the onus off Ms. von der Leyen and gave her political cover while simultaneously allowing her to seem tough for signing off on it.

    The episode has become a clear example of how Mr. Draghi builds relationships with the potential to yield big payoffs not only for himself and Italy, but all of Europe.

    On March 25, when the Commission became suspicious over 29 million AstraZeneca doses in a warehouse outside Rome, Ms. von der Leyen called Mr. Draghi for help, officials with knowledge of the calls said. He obliged, and the police were quickly dispatched.

    In the meantime, Mr. Draghi and Mr. Macron, joined by Spain and others, continued to support a harder line from the Commission on vaccine exports. The Netherlands was against it, and Germany, with a vibrant pharmaceutical market, was queasy.

    When the European leaders met again in a video conference on March 25, Ms. von der Leyen seemed more confident in the political and pragmatic advantages of halting exports of Covid vaccines made in the European Union. She again presented slides, this time authorizing a broader six-week curb on exports from the bloc, and Mr. Draghi stepped back into a supportive role.

    “Let me thank you for all the work that has been done,” he said.

    After the meeting, Mr. Draghi, however modestly, gave Italy — and by extension himself — credit for the steps allowing export bans. “This is more or less the discussion that took place,” he told reporters, “because this was the issue originally raised by us.”

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    John Naisbitt, Business Guru and Author of ‘Megatrends,’ Dies at 92

    His marriage to Ms. Senior ended in divorce, as did his second, to Patricia Aburdene. Along with his daughter, he is survived by his third wife, Doris (Dinklage) Naisbitt; his sons James, David and John; another daughter, Nana Naisbitt; a stepdaughter, Nora Rosenblatt; 11 grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.

    Mr. Naisbitt ran out of money after only two semesters, and with his first child on the way he dropped out of college to take a job writing speeches for executives at Eastman Kodak, in Rochester, N.Y.

    He and his family moved to Chicago in 1957, where he worked in public relations jobs. He worked in Washington between 1963 and 1966, first as an assistant to the director of the National Education Commission, then as an assistant to the secretary of health, education and welfare.

    It was during an assignment to assess the impact of various Great Society programs under President Lyndon B. Johnson, he said, that he first developed his method of trend analysis. A fan of American history, he had been reading books about the Civil War by Bruce Catton, who had relied heavily on contemporary newspapers to get a sense of the country’s mood during the war.

    “I went out to a newsstand and I bought about 50 out-of-town newspapers,” he told The Christian Science Monitor in 1982. “And I was absolutely stunned what I learned in three hours about what was going on in America.”

    He called it “content analysis,” and after he returned to Chicago, he put it into practice with his first firm, the Urban Research Corporation. Long before computers made such work nearly instantaneous, Mr. Naisbitt employed a small army of analysts to read through scores of newspapers a day, clipping stories about urban protests, crime and campus unrest, which he drew on to write reports for nonprofit and corporate clients.

    With his first marriage ending and his company losing money, he moved back to Washington in the mid-1970s and opened another, similar firm. It also failed, leading him to file for personal bankruptcy in 1977.

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    Intelligence Chiefs Warn of Russian Troops Near Ukraine and Other Threats

    WASHINGTON — The Russian military buildup at the Ukraine border and in Crimea could provide enough forces for a limited military incursion, the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, told senators on Wednesday as he and other senior officials outlined a range of threats facing the United States.

    Russia could simply be sending a signal to the United States or trying to intimidate the Ukrainian government, but it had the abilities in place to do more, Mr. Burns told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

    “That buildup has reached the point that it could provide the basis for a limited military incursion, as well,” Mr. Burns said. “It is something not only the United States but our allies have to take very seriously.”

    Mr. Burns testified alongside Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, and other officials about an array of threats from global powers like Russia and China as well as challenges that have been less of a focus of intelligence agencies in the past, including domestic extremism and climate change.

    annual threat assessment report, released Tuesday ahead of the hearing, the intelligence community said that China’s push for global power posed a threat to the United States through its aggression in its region, its expansion of its surveillance abilities and its attempts to dominate technological advances.

    Russia has also pushed for a sphere of influence that includes countries that were part of the Soviet Union, like Ukraine, the report said.

    Both China and Russia, however, wanted to avoid direct confrontation with the United States, the report said.

    Mr. Burns said the Russian actions have prompted internal briefings as well as consultations with allies. President Biden’s call on Tuesday to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was intended to “register very clearly the seriousness of our concern,” Mr. Burns said.

    The United States has been tracking the Russian troops for some time, at least since late March. American officials have said privately that the Russians have done little to hide their troop buildup, unlike in 2014 when they first attacked Ukraine. That has convinced some, but not all, officials briefed on the intelligence that the Russian activities may be mostly for show.

    penetrated nine federal agencies, and another by China that compromised Microsoft Exchange servers. The Biden administration is expected to respond to the Russian hacking soon, most likely with sanctions and other measures.

    Ms. Haines said Russia used hackings to sow discord and threaten the United States and its allies. “Russia is becoming increasingly adept at leveraging its technological prowess to develop asymmetric options in both the military and cyberspheres in order to give itself the ability to push back and force the United States to accommodate its interests,” she said.

    Lawmakers also raised the issue of a series of mysterious episodes that have injured diplomats and C.I.A. officers overseas. Some former officials believe Russia is behind the episodes, which they have called attacks.

    Mr. Burns said he was working with his colleagues to ensure better medical care for C.I.A. officers. He also said he was working to “get to the bottom of the question of what caused these incidents and who might have been responsible.”

    Questions on China dominated the earlier Senate confirmation hearings for Ms. Haines and Mr. Burns, and lawmakers again pressed on Wednesday for assessments on China and its efforts to steal American technology. Ms. Haines outlined how China uses technological might, economic influence and other levers of power to intimidate its neighbors.

    “China is employing a comprehensive approach to demonstrate its growing strength and compel regional neighbors to acquiesce to Beijing’s preferences,” she told senators.

    another recent intelligence report, on global trends, highlighted how the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, along with technological change, were testing “the resilience and adaptability” of society. The “looming disequilibrium,” she said, compels intelligence agencies to broaden their definition of national security.

    But at least one lawmaker, Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, also asked a more practical question: How many intelligence officers have received coronavirus vaccines?

    Mr. Burns said 80 percent of the C.I.A. work force was fully vaccinated and another 10 percent have had their first shot. He said all C.I.A. officers serving overseas “have the vaccine available to them directly.”

    Mr. Wray was unable to give an estimate of how many of his agents had received a shot, saying that the vaccination rates varied in field offices in different states. Ms. Haines said 86 percent of her work force had had at least one shot, with a “fair percentage” being fully vaccinated. General Nakasone also had no estimate but said a vaccination center had been set up at Fort Meade, Md., where the National Security Agency’s headquarters is.

    Lawmakers have also been pressing intelligence agencies to help examine the problem of domestic extremism. Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia and the chairman of the intelligence committee, linked the rise of domestic extremism to the same trends promoting disinformation produced by Russia and others. And he said he wanted the intelligence chiefs to outline how they could help provide better warnings of potential violence like the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

    “go back to school.” Mr. Trump’s last director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, chose not to release a threat assessment or testify before Congress last year.

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    US Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan: What to Know

    The reality of an imminent American withdrawal from Afghanistan differs from its long-anticipated likelihood. Already the anxiety engendered by this new certainty in the capital, Kabul, and other urban centers is making itself felt.

    Afghans’ fear is multifaceted, evoked by the Taliban’s grim record, bitter and vivid memories of civil war and the widely acknowledged weakness of the current government. These conditions in turn push Afghan thinking in one direction: The country’s government and armed forces won’t survive without American support. Many American policymakers, security officials and diplomats concur with this gloomy view. Just this week, the U.S. intelligence assessment, presented to Congress, suggested as much: “The Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support.”

    During their five years in power, 1996-2001, the Taliban operated one of the world’s most oppressive and theocratic regimes, and there is little in their public posture and behavior during the group’s years of insurgency to suggest much has changed, at least ideologically.

    In Afghanistan’s cities, the new middle-class society that emerged under the American security umbrella over the last 20 years dread a return to that era of rule.

    some analysts say, there is some imperative to find political solutions to achieving their desired return to power.

    And, most important, there are too many potential centers of armed resistance that will not go down quietly. And that in turn would lead to an intensification of the civil war that is already consuming much of the country.

    With the Biden’s administration’s announcement on Wednesday of a complete withdrawal of American forces by Sept. 11, there are still several questions that will need to be answered between now and then.

    believe they have already militarily won the war with Afghan forces, and they may be right.

    Afghan soldiers and police have abandoned dozens of checkpoints, while others have been taken by force, while the attrition rate among security forces is considered unsustainable by Western and Afghan security officials.

    Still, as long as Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani. can continue to maintain his elite special force of 20,000-30,000 men and pay them, thanks to the Americans, he may be able to maintain his hold on power, for a time. The Americans fund the Afghan military to the tune of $4 billion a year; if those funds are cut by a Congress unwilling to pay for somebody else’s war, Mr. Ghani is in trouble.

    Also likely to be emboldened by the American withdrawal, and constituting a further threat to the Ghani government, are the forces controlled by the country’s numerous and potent regional leaders. These power brokers may now be tempted to cut deals with the side that clearly has the upper hand, the Taliban, or buckle down and try to secure their small portions of the country and again take up the mantle of warlords.

    believe Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups pose an immediate threat to the United States from Afghanistan — although the congressionally mandated Afghan Study Group said earlier this year that withdrawal “could lead to a reconstitution of the terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland within 18 months to three years.”

    Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan was militarily defeated their eastern stronghold in late 2019. But smaller and more amorphous elements continue to operate with low intensity in the region, including in Kabul, waiting to take advantage of whatever might happen in the coming months.

    U.S. military and intelligence officials have suggested a limited timeline — a handful years at best.

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    Afghans Wonder ‘What About Me?’ as US Troops Prepare to Withdraw

    KABUL, Afghanistan — A female high school student in Kabul, Afghanistan’s war-scarred capital, is worried that she won’t be allowed to graduate. A pomegranate farmer in Kandahar wonders if his orchards will ever be clear of Taliban land mines. A government soldier in Ghazni fears he will never stop fighting.

    Three Afghans from disparate walks of life, now each asking the same question: What will become of me when the Americans leave?

    President Biden on Tuesday vowed to withdraw all American troops by Sept. 11, nearly 20 years after the first Americans arrived to drive out Al Qaeda following the 2001 terrorist attacks. The American withdrawal ends the longest war in United States history, but it is also likely to be the start of another difficult chapter for Afghanistan’s people.

    reported that in the first three months of the year there were 573 civilians killed and 1,210 wounded, a 29 percent increase over the same period in 2020. More than 40,000 civilians have been killed since the start of the war.

    Over two decades, the American mission evolved from hunting terrorists to helping the government build the institutions of a functioning government, dismantle the Taliban and empower women. But the U.S. and Afghan militaries were never able to effectively destroy the Taliban, allowing the insurgents to stage a comeback.

    The Taliban never recognized Afghanistan’s democratic government. And they appear closer than ever to achieving the goal of their insurgency: to return to power and establish a government based on their extremist view of Islam.

    Women would be most at risk under Taliban rule. When the group controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, it banned women from taking most jobs or receiving educations and practically made them prisoners in their own homes.

    “It is too early to comment on the subject. We need to know much more,” said Fatima Gailani, an Afghan government negotiator who is involved in the continuing peace talks with the Taliban. “One thing is certain: It is about time that we learn how to rely on ourselves. Women of Afghanistan are totally different now. They are a force in our country; no one can deny them their rights or status.”

    Afghanistan’s shaky democracy — propped up by billions of American dollars — has given way to an educated urban class that includes women like Ms. Gailani. Many of them were born in Afghanistan in the 1990s and came of age during the U.S. occupation of the country. Now these women are journalists, part of civil society and members of government.

    In the countryside, by contrast, fighting, poverty and oppression remain regular parts of life. Despite the challenges, residents found some comfort in knowing that Afghan forces, backed by the American military, were keeping the peace at least in some areas.

    Haji Abdul Samad, 52, a pomegranate farmer from the Arghandab district of Kandahar Province, has been displaced from his home for two months because of the heavy fighting there.

    “I am too tired of my life. We are now in a position to beg,” Mr. Samad said. “The Americans are responsible for the troubles, hardships that we are going through. Now they are going to leave with their troops, with no peace, no progress. They just want to leave their war behind.”

    Fears about the future are as palpable in the presidential palace in Kabul as they are in far-flung corners of the country. And people across Afghanistan are confused about who will soon be in charge.

    The Taliban have repeatedly called for President Ashraf Ghani to step down to make way for an interim government, or most likely, their own. Mr. Ghani has refused, instead pushing for elections but also opening the door to more fighting and a potential civil war. The peace talks in Qatar have faltered and the Taliban have all but backed out of proposed talks in Turkey.

    “Ghani will be increasingly isolated. Power brokers see every one of his moves as designed to keep himself and his deputies at the helm,” said Torek Farhadi, an adviser to former President Hamid Karzai. “Reality is, free and fair elections are not possible in the country amid war. In fact, it could fuel more violence.”

    As American troops prepare to leave and fractures form in the Afghan government, militias controlled by powerful local warlords are once more rising to prominence and attacking government forces.

    The American withdrawal will undoubtedly be a massive blow to morale for the Afghan security forces, spread across the country at hundreds of checkpoints, inside bases and along violent front lines. For years, the U.S. presence has meant that American air power, if needed, was nearby. But since the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban, those airstrikes have become much less frequent, occurring only in the most dire of situations.

    Without American military support, Afghan government troops are up against a Taliban enemy who is frequently more experienced and better equipped than the average foot soldier.

    The history of Afghanistan has been one of foreign invasion and withdrawal: the British in the 19th century and the Soviets in the 20th. After each invasion, the country underwent a period of infighting and civil war.

    “It is not the right time to withdraw their troops,” said Major Saifuddin Azizi, a commando commander in the southeastern province of Ghazni, where fighting has been especially brutal in recent days. “It is unreasonable, hasty and a betrayal to us. It pushes Afghanistan into another civil war. Afghanistan’s destiny will look like it did two decades ago.”

    Reporting was contributed by Fahim Abed, Najim Rahim and Fatima Faizi from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar.

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    Afghans Wonder ‘What About Me?’ as American Troops Prepare to Withdraw

    KABUL, Afghanistan — A female high school student in Kabul, Afghanistan’s war-scarred capital, is worried that she won’t be allowed to graduate. A pomegranate farmer in Kandahar wonders if his orchards will ever be clear of Taliban land mines. A government soldier in Ghazni fears he will never stop fighting.

    Three Afghans from disparate walks of life, now each asking the same question: What will become of me when the Americans leave?

    President Biden on Tuesday vowed to withdraw all American troops by Sept. 11, nearly 20 years after the first Americans arrived to drive out Al Qaeda following the 2001 terrorist attacks. The American withdrawal ends the longest war in United States history, but it is also likely to be the start of another difficult chapter for Afghanistan’s people.

    reported that in the first three months of the year there were 573 civilians killed and 1,210 wounded, a 29 percent increase over the same period in 2020. More than 40,000 civilians have been killed since the start of the war.

    Over two decades, the American mission evolved from hunting terrorists to helping the government build the institutions of a functioning government, dismantle the Taliban and empower women. But the U.S. and Afghan militaries were never able to effectively destroy the Taliban, allowing the insurgents to stage a comeback.

    The Taliban never recognized Afghanistan’s democratic government. And they appear closer than ever to achieving the goal of their insurgency: to return to power and establish a government based on their extremist view of Islam.

    Women would be most at risk under Taliban rule. When the group controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, it banned women from taking most jobs or receiving educations and practically made them prisoners in their own homes.

    “It is too early to comment on the subject. We need to know much more,” said Fatima Gailani, an Afghan government negotiator who is involved in the continuing peace talks with the Taliban. “One thing is certain: It is about time that we learn how to rely on ourselves. Women of Afghanistan are totally different now. They are a force in our country; no one can deny them their rights or status.”

    Afghanistan’s shaky democracy — propped up by billions of American dollars — has given way to an educated urban class that includes women like Ms. Gailani. Many of them were born in Afghanistan in the 1990s and came of age during the U.S. occupation of the country. Now these women are journalists, part of civil society and members of government.

    In the countryside, by contrast, fighting, poverty and oppression remain regular parts of life. Despite the challenges, residents found some comfort in knowing that Afghan forces, backed by the American military, were keeping the peace at least in some areas.

    Haji Abdul Samad, 52, a pomegranate farmer from the Arghandab district of Kandahar Province, has been displaced from his home for two months because of the heavy fighting there.

    “I am too tired of my life. We are now in a position to beg,” Mr. Samad said. “The Americans are responsible for the troubles, hardships that we are going through. Now they are going to leave with their troops, with no peace, no progress. They just want to leave their war behind.”

    Fears about the future are as palpable in the presidential palace in Kabul as they are in far-flung corners of the country. And people across Afghanistan are confused about who will soon be in charge.

    The Taliban have repeatedly called for President Ashraf Ghani to step down to make way for an interim government, or most likely, their own. Mr. Ghani has refused, instead pushing for elections but also opening the door to more fighting and a potential civil war. The peace talks in Qatar have faltered and the Taliban have all but backed out of proposed talks in Turkey.

    “Ghani will be increasingly isolated. Power brokers see every one of his moves as designed to keep himself and his deputies at the helm,” said Torek Farhadi, an adviser to former President Hamid Karzai. “Reality is, free and fair elections are not possible in the country amid war. In fact, it could fuel more violence.”

    As American troops prepare to leave and fractures form in the Afghan government, militias controlled by powerful local warlords are once more rising to prominence and attacking government forces.

    The American withdrawal will undoubtedly be a massive blow to morale for the Afghan security forces, spread across the country at hundreds of checkpoints, inside bases and along violent front lines. For years, the U.S. presence has meant that American air power, if needed, was nearby. But since the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban, those airstrikes have become much less frequent, occurring only in the most dire of situations.

    Without American military support, Afghan government troops are up against a Taliban enemy who is frequently more experienced and better equipped than the average foot soldier.

    The history of Afghanistan has been one of foreign invasion and withdrawal: the British in the 19th century and the Soviets in the 20th. After each invasion, the country underwent a period of infighting and civil war.

    “It is not the right time to withdraw their troops,” said Major Saifuddin Azizi, a commando commander in the southeastern province of Ghazni, where fighting has been especially brutal in recent days. “It is unreasonable, hasty and a betrayal to us. It pushes Afghanistan into another civil war. Afghanistan’s destiny will look like it did two decades ago.”

    Reporting was contributed by Fahim Abed, Najim Rahim and Fatima Faizi from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar.

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