Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. I'm Missy Ryan, your host for the day, and I cover diplomacy and national security for The Post. Olivier will be back on Monday.

The big idea

The U.S. is no longer setting the agenda in Afghanistan

The United States is no longer setting the global agenda on Afghanistan. Nearly two months after the last U.S. troops lifted off from Kabul, culminating a chaotic and deadly Western withdrawal, a different Afghanistan is taking shape, one that may be increasingly influenced by Russia and China.

And with each passing week, the country’s new Taliban leaders provide additional clues about how they intend to govern. 

The fact that U.S. rivals, including Russia and China, are among those leading global engagement with newly empowered militant leaders in Kabul, and that Washington has been unable to secure Taliban commitments on key issues including women’s rights, underscores the geopolitical shift set in motion by the American exit. 

While Republicans and Democrats in Washington feud about who is to blame for the failure of the 20-year-long U.S. effort in Afghanistan, the Biden administration is moving cautiously in its outreach to Taliban leaders and in its steps to provide assistance to a nation now gripped by humanitarian crisis. 

Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hosted top Taliban officials for a summit on Afghanistan’s future, a meeting that also included representatives from China, India, Iran and Pakistan. The United States did not attend, citing logistical issues.

The meeting is an illustration that, three decades after its own ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan, Moscow is once again a leading international broker on that war-torn country. 

While U.S. and European allies were rushing to evacuate their diplomats from Kabul in August, the Russian embassy remained open.

Russia and China step up

The government of Russian leader Vladimir Putin has signaled it does not plan to immediately recognize the Taliban government, but it is cultivating militant leaders and working to ensure its interests will be protected under their rule. While Moscow has urged the Taliban to form an inclusive government, it appears to be putting less of a focus on human rights than Western nations. 

China, meanwhile, is engaging with the Taliban as it seeks out new economic opportunities in Central Asia and intensifies its security competition with the United States. This week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi promised support to Afghanistan after a meeting with top Taliban representatives in Qatar. While China too is holding back from recognition, the high-level encounter sends a signal from which the Biden administration has so far shied away. While U.S. officials have held closed-door discussions with the Taliban on aid and logistical matters, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has not yet met his Taliban counterpart.

Also this week, lawmakers in Tajikistan gave their approval to a new Chinese military base that will expand Beijing’s security clout on Afghanistan’s borders, RFE reported. 

The recent events are a sign of changing dynamics after two decades in which the United States, with its troop presence and massive monetary investments, was the undisputed diplomatic leader on global diplomacy related to Afghanistan. 

Moscow, like China and the United States, is motivated largely by security concerns. But Afghanistan’s new reality is also an opportunity for Putin to illustrate Moscow’s global clout in the wake of a stinging American defeat. 

As colleagues Isabelle Khurshudyan and Susannah George point out, it is unclear whether the Taliban will heed entreaties from Russia and China, let alone from Europe and the United States, about its approach to governing. 

What about Afghan women?

While the Taliban has said it has moderated since its harsh 1990s rule, the group has shuttered the women’s affairs ministry and renewed policies restricting women’s dress. Schools have only partially reopened for girls and, even where they are open, many families have kept female students at home due to security and other fears. 

Last week, the Taliban instructed many female workers in Kabul to remain at home while it develops plans officials say would allow women to work “within the frameworks we have,” as one Taliban leader said in August. 

The worrying developments come as the Biden administration assesses how it can support vulnerable Afghans and defend its own interests without strengthening a regime it fought for two decades.

Still, the United States retains significant clout, including its status as the largest single provider of humanitarian aid and its control over more than $10 billion in Afghan reserves held in New York. 

While the United States has pledged to continue humanitarian aid, working through aid groups and the U.N., officials say they are reviewing other forms of assistance and evaluating Taliban actions before making a decision about the money.

In addition, the Biden administration must now make the best of a bad situation when it comes to U.S. security. This week, a top Pentagon official acknowledged the administration’s inability to secure new basing arrangements that would allow it to conduct intelligence or counterterrorism flights over Afghanistan from neighboring countries, potentially a sign of increased Russian influence in Central Asia. 

As Karen DeYoung reported, Pentagon policy chief Colin Kahl told lawmakers that officials have had extensive talks with countries including Uzbekistan and Tajikistan but concluded no new agreements. That means that U.S. aircraft must travel over 1,000 miles from bases in the Persian Gulf, limiting U.S. visibility into extremist activities in Afghanistan. 

What's happening now

U.S. economy grew at annual rate of 2 percent in the third quarter

“The gross domestic product figures for the July-through-September period, released Thursday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, came in far lower than the booming 6.7 percent growth in the previous quarter, reflecting an economy struggling anew amid the delta variant surge,” Rachel Siegel and Andrew Van Dam report.

Vatican cancels live broadcast of Biden greeting pope

“Cancelled was any live coverage of Biden actually greeting [Pope] Francis in the palace Throne Room, as well as the live footage of the two men sitting down to begin their private talks in Francis’ library, at which time the cameras normally would have stopped running. The Vatican said it would provide edited footage of the encounter after the fact to accredited media,” the Associated Press's Nicole Winfield reports.

Former DOJ official parts with lawyer before Jan. 6 testimony 

Former top Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark is scheduled to field questions from Jan. 6 committee investigators on Friday. But he and his lawyer have split, Politico's Betsy Woodruff Swan reports.

  • Clark “pushed for other senior DOJ officials to greenlight a letter falsely claiming the FBI found serious evidence of voter fraud in multiple states. At one point, Trump also discussed firing his acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen and replacing him with Clark.”

The Biden agenda

Deal or no deal (on reconciliation?)

President Biden went to Capitol Hill this morning to unveil “a new $1.75 trillion package to overhaul the country’s health-care, education, climate and tax laws, muscling through a slew of policy disagreements and internecine political feuds that had stalled President Biden’s economic agenda for months,”  Tyler Pager, Sean Sullivan and Tony Romm report. The newly unfurled framework is a “significant departure from the roughly $3.5 trillion that the president and many top party lawmakers initially sought.”

“No one got everything they wanted, including me,” he said. “But that’s what compromise is. That’s consensus. And that’s what I ran on," Biden said in public remarks afterwards.

Now, whether Democrats – especially House progressives intend to accept the president's word for it – is another matter entirely. House progressives have vowed they won't support the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package without seeing the text of the reconciliation framework, and they stuck to that messaging this morning.

Biden is raising the stakes extraordinarily high, per CNN's Congress chief:

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is promising an infrastructure vote today while also making things personal:

But there's no guarantee progressives will drop their demands to see legislative text., per Punchbowl News:

And it's not even clear whether Manchinema (Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema) have been won over:

Here's what appears to be in the emerging reconciliation framework, per Romm, Amy Goldstein and Dino Grandoni have the details. Though take this all with a grain of salt.

Health care

  • What’s in:
    • Extension of expanded premium subsidies for more Americans who buy health plans through Affordable Care Act marketplaces
    • Expansion of Medicare benefits, including hearing
    • Low-income people in a dozen states that have not expanded Medicaid can buy ACA health plans without monthly premiums
  • Extension of expanded premium subsidies for more Americans who buy health plans through Affordable Care Act marketplaces
  • Expansion of Medicare benefits, including hearing
  • Low-income people in a dozen states that have not expanded Medicaid can buy ACA health plans without monthly premiums
  • What's out:
    • Prescription drug pricing negotiation
      • “Democrats campaigned on reducing prices of prescription drugs — and letting Medicare directly force lower prices is a key plank of that effort. But the party couldn’t overcome fierce divisions amid a lobbying storm,” Rachel Roubein reports.
    • Medicare expansion of dental and vision
  • Prescription drug pricing negotiation
    • “Democrats campaigned on reducing prices of prescription drugs — and letting Medicare directly force lower prices is a key plank of that effort. But the party couldn’t overcome fierce divisions amid a lobbying storm,” Rachel Roubein reports.
  • “Democrats campaigned on reducing prices of prescription drugs — and letting Medicare directly force lower prices is a key plank of that effort. But the party couldn’t overcome fierce divisions amid a lobbying storm,” Rachel Roubein reports.
  • Medicare expansion of dental and vision

Families

  • What’s in:
    • Universal, free prekindergarten for all three and four years olds
    • A “$400 billion bucket of funds to help Americans afford child care, aiming to ensure families who earn less than $300,000 annually pay no more than 7 percent of their income on child care for kids under age 6”
    • About $150 billion for home care to help seniors
    • One-year extension of expanded, refundable child tax credits
    • Around $150 billion to construct, rehab and make available roughly 1 million affordable homes — plus aid for rental assistance and help first-time home buyers
    • Higher education aid, “including an increase to the maximum Pell Grant by $550 for roughly 5 million students in need, and additional investments to boost Historically Black Colleges and Universities”
  • Universal, free prekindergarten for all three and four years olds
  • A “$400 billion bucket of funds to help Americans afford child care, aiming to ensure families who earn less than $300,000 annually pay no more than 7 percent of their income on child care for kids under age 6”
  • About $150 billion for home care to help seniors
  • One-year extension of expanded, refundable child tax credits
  • Around $150 billion to construct, rehab and make available roughly 1 million affordable homes — plus aid for rental assistance and help first-time home buyers
  • Higher education aid, “including an increase to the maximum Pell Grant by $550 for roughly 5 million students in need, and additional investments to boost Historically Black Colleges and Universities”
  • What’s out:
    • Paid leave, which would have offered 12 weeks for taking care of a new child, recovering from a serious illness, or taking care of a seriously ill loved one
  • Paid leave, which would have offered 12 weeks for taking care of a new child, recovering from a serious illness, or taking care of a seriously ill loved one

Climate

  • What’s in:
    • A $555 billion plan, “an amount the White House says makes the bill the biggest clean energy investment in the nation’s history.”
    • Tax breaks for companies and consumers that install solar panels, improve the energy efficiency of buildings, and purchase electric vehicles
    • Incentives for making clean energy equipment domestically in union-organized factories
    • A Civilian Climate Corps to hire 300,000 young people
  • A $555 billion plan, “an amount the White House says makes the bill the biggest clean energy investment in the nation’s history.”
  • Tax breaks for companies and consumers that install solar panels, improve the energy efficiency of buildings, and purchase electric vehicles
  • Incentives for making clean energy equipment domestically in union-organized factories
  • A Civilian Climate Corps to hire 300,000 young people
  • What's out:
    • Clean energy: “Many of the aggressive steps Biden and other Democrats hoped to take to further cut emissions, including a comprehensive program to reward electric utilities for switching to renewable energy, have fallen out of the plan due to opposition from Manchin, who represents a coal heavy state.”
  • Clean energy: “Many of the aggressive steps Biden and other Democrats hoped to take to further cut emissions, including a comprehensive program to reward electric utilities for switching to renewable energy, have fallen out of the plan due to opposition from Manchin, who represents a coal heavy state.”

The plan to pay for it

“Senior administration officials insist the $1.75 trillion plan is financed in full, raising nearly $2 trillion over 10 years.”

  • What's in:
    • 15 percent corporate minimum tax on large corporations
    • New tax targeting companies that perform stock buybacks
    • New tax surcharge targeting the wealthiest Americans
    • $400 billion to empower the Internal Revenue Service to pursue tax cheats, focusing on Americans with higher incomes
  • 15 percent corporate minimum tax on large corporations
  • New tax targeting companies that perform stock buybacks
  • New tax surcharge targeting the wealthiest Americans
  • $400 billion to empower the Internal Revenue Service to pursue tax cheats, focusing on Americans with higher incomes
  • What's out:
    • The billionaires tax: “The White House had hoped to raise even more money by ratcheting up rates on corporations and wealthy Americans, a move that would have unwound the tax cuts imposed under now-former President Trump in 2017. But Biden had to abandon that plan in the face of opposition from Sinema, who opposed tax increases.”
  • The billionaires tax: “The White House had hoped to raise even more money by ratcheting up rates on corporations and wealthy Americans, a move that would have unwound the tax cuts imposed under now-former President Trump in 2017. But Biden had to abandon that plan in the face of opposition from Sinema, who opposed tax increases.”

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Facebook withheld key vaccine data from lawmakers

Facebook researchers had deep knowledge of how coronavirus and vaccine misinformation moved through the company’s apps, running multiple studies and producing large internal reports on what kinds of users were most likely to share falsehoods about the deadly virus, according to documents disclosed by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen,” Gerrit De Vynck, Cat Zakrzewski and Cristiano Lima report. “
“But even as academics, lawmakers and the White House urged Facebook for months to be more transparent about the misinformation and its effects on the behavior of its users, the company refused to share much of this information publicly, resulting in a public showdown with the Biden administration.”

… and beyond

Four U.S. intelligence agencies failed to predict Kabul’s rapid collapse

“Leading U.S. intelligence agencies failed to predict the rapid Taliban takeover of Afghanistan prior to the final withdrawal of American troops and instead offered scattershot assessments of the staying power of the Afghan military and government,” the Wall Street Journal's Vivian Salama and Warren P. Strobel report.

  • “The assessments charted Taliban advances from spring 2020 through this July, forecasting that the group would continue to gain ground and that the U.S.-backed government in Kabul was unlikely to survive absent U.S. support.”
  • “The analyses, however, differed over how long the Afghan government and military could hold on, the summaries show, with none foreseeing the group’s lightning sweep into the Afghan capital by Aug. 15 while U.S. forces remained on the ground.”

Virginia governor’s race fundraising, visualized

“The two major-party candidates in Virginia’s governor’s race have raised a record amount of money as they battle for the Executive Mansion, reaching a combined total of more than $115 million in contributions, according to the latest round of campaign finance filings.

Hot on the left

Trump’s latest defense — in print

Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal published a letter from former president Donald Trump. In it, he “makes a number of claims about the results of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania,” Philip Bump reports

Bump runs through 14 things you need to know about the letter, namely that “Donald Trump is still railing against his election loss 358 days after it occurred. And that prominent institutions are still enabling his dangerous misinformation more than 358 days after they should have known better.”

Hot on the right

Youngkin v. Morrison?

“A new online advertisement released this week by Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate [for Virginia governor,] features a mother who pushed to have Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” banned from her son’s English curriculum eight years ago, citing the book’s graphic scenes. When that failed, she started an effort that eventually became a bill passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, but that was rejected by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat now running to win back his old job,” the New York Timess Lisa Lerer and Reid J. Epstein report.

Today in Washington

The President and the first lady will depart for Rome at 12:35 p.m.

In closing

Costume-clad dogs paraded around Congress Wednesday. Sara Sorcher and Morgan Coates have the details — including pups dressed like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (R-Ariz.) — but here are some highlights.

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.