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Your Wednesday Briefing

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President Biden said at the White House that the U.S. was on track for an Aug. 31 departure from Afghanistan, saying he had spoken to military leaders so they would be prepared to “adjust that timetable, should that become necessary.”

Earlier on Tuesday, he told world leaders that the 6,000 troops in Kabul now could begin departures this week or weekend to meet the deadline. The longer the troops wait, Biden said, the greater the risk of a terrorist attack.

Some leaders had hoped Washington would extend the timeline. U.S. lawmakers from both parties have been urging Biden to do so. He had previously suggested that it was possible, but the Taliban warned of “consequences.”

The pace of evacuations has accelerated greatly despite the chaos and desperation outside the Kabul airport, and the U.S. has begun withdrawing from its presence there. The Taliban announced that they would block Afghans from traveling to the airport.

The U.S. has a much higher share of older adults without full vaccine protection than many other wealthy countries, and it has made the Delta variant wave deadlier.

Though more and more younger, unvaccinated adults are going to hospitals, the vast majority of people dying from Covid are older and unvaccinated. Low vaccination rates among older people in Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana and Nevada have coincided with surging rates of hospitalization and death. By contrast, unvaccinated seniors in Britain, Spain and Canada are relatively rare.

Officials in other countries have been more willing to use mandates to encourage vaccinations, while some U.S. states (like Utah and Texas) have gone so far as to ban certain institutions from mandating vaccines. Those bans could now be upended because of the F.D.A.’s full approval of Pfizer’s shot.

The pace of vaccinations in the U.S. has sped up. More companies, including Goldman Sachs, are requiring employees to be vaccinated.

Quotable: “We have really tried to get them vaccinated,” said a North Dakota health official, whose department has sent letters to every unvaccinated senior in the state. “There just seems to be a lack of trust in public health and government, and even a lack of trust of medical professionals.”

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other virus news:

In an interview with The Times before a visit to Washington, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of Israel said he opposed any U.S.-led attempts to reinstate the nuclear deal with Iran and would continue Israel’s covert attacks on Iran’s nuclear program.

Bennett also ruled out peace talks with the Palestinians and said he would expand West Bank settlements, a policy Biden opposes. He declined to back American plans to reopen a consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem.

His statements, which align with his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, set up a potentially awkward dynamic with Biden. The two are set to meet at the White House on Thursday. Bennett said that he would seek common ground and that he planned to arrive in Washington with a new approach to containing Iran’s nuclear program.

Quotable: “What we need to do, and what we are doing, is forming a regional coalition of reasonable Arab countries, together with us, that will fend off and block this expansion and this desire for domination” by Iran, Bennett said.

News From Europe

As a 20-year-old American soldier fighting in World War II, Martin Adler took a photograph with three Italian children he had nearly fired upon after seeing movement and assuming they were German soldiers. Now 97, Adler, center, reunited with the siblings for the first time in an emotional meeting organized by his daughter.

Lives Lived: Charlie Watts, whose drumming powered the Rolling Stones for 50 years, died at 80.

Spike Lee’s new documentary series on HBO — “New York Epicenters: 9/11-2021½” — is a mournful and irreverent tribute to his city. It chronicles the Sept. 11 attacks and the pandemic through interviews with dozens of New Yorkers. “With 20 years coming up since 9/11, and with people often saying of New York during Covid, ‘This is the epicenter,’ it was natural,” Lee said of the subject matter.

Some of the faces are familiar — Senator Chuck Schumer, Mayor Bill de Blasio, the actress Rosie Perez — but most of the story is told through health care workers, firefighters, activists and survivors. His team interviewed over 200 people for the series. “We just wanted to be as well-rounded as possible, a kaleidoscope of witnesses,” he said.

In a Q. and A. with The Times, Lee also defended his decision to include Sept. 11 conspiracy theorists in the film: Viewers would “make up their own mind,” he said. “My approach is put the information in the movie and let people decide for themselves.”

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Military Ramps Up Evacuations From Kabul, but Bottlenecks Persist

WASHINGTON — With the Aug. 31 deadline for a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan rapidly approaching, the Pentagon has sharply ramped up the speed of evacuations from the Kabul airport, flying out 21,600 people in 24 hours, Defense Department officials said Tuesday. But bottlenecks in the system, and President Biden’s insistence that all troops leave the country by the end of the month, may prevent the military from keeping that pace.The […]

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