Asia/Africa update: December 13 2017



The expansion of the CIA’s mission in Afghanistan is already coming at a cost for Afghan civilians in Khost province, who have to deal with the agency-backed Khost Protection Force (KPF) militia:

The intelligence’ surveillance complex has become part of the people’s daily life in Khost. Surveillance balloons, antennas on every hill, and KPF militias on the ground dominate the landscape of many parts of the province. The center of this dystopian reality is the CIA base in the city, Camp Chapman, where the militia is being trained.


“You have the feeling of always being watched and monitored. It’s weird and you don’t really feel free,” said Zaeef, a student from Khost City.



While the militia is controlling the ground, American drones are haunting the skies, and increasingly, these aerial strikes leading to civilian deaths. As a local tool of the Americans, the KPF is directly involved in these developments.


Bangladeshi investigators looking into failed New York subway bomber Akayed Ullah say he may have been radicalized online via the works of notorious Bangladeshi preacher Jasimuddin Rahmani:

In a news conference here Wednesday, counterterrorism chief Monirul Islam said that Ullah’s attempted attack was inspired by the writings and online sermons of a Bangladeshi cleric named Jasimuddin Rahmani, the spiritual leader of Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a banned Bangladeshi terrorist organization. Rahmani is serving a five-year prison term after his conviction on charges of inciting the murder of a Bangladeshi blogger.


Islam said that [Ullah’s wife Jannatul] Ferdous and her family had, under questioning, suggested that link — implying that they did have some inkling of his radicalization.


Violent rhetoric from ABT has been blamed for a series of murders of atheist and secular bloggers and activists. In 2015, the group published a hit list of writers and activists from around the world.

They say they’ve found no direct link between Ullah and any extremist groups in Bangladesh, and believe he was radicalized after he came to America in 2011.


Doctors Without Borders says its evidence shows that more than 6700 Rohingya were killed in a month of mass violence that hit Rakhine state starting in late August. Myanmar’s military, which was responsible for the vast majority of those deaths, claims that only 400 Rohingya were killed during that period, a figure that most assumed was laughably low but few assumed was this laughably low.


The Philippine parliament has dutifully complied with Rodrigo Duterte’s desire to extend the state of martial law on Mindanao for another year. Duterte says his security forces need the additional year to “eradicate” militancy on the island, and if he just means radical Islamist militancy of the kind recently on display in Marawi, maybe. If he means militancy in general then that’s going to take more than a year.


Sure enough, the White House on Wednesday broke with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and said that “right now is not the time” for direct talks between the US and North Korea. Tillerson had said on Tuesday that he was ready for talks with Pyongyang on anything, without preconditions, but then Rex Tillerson might as well be working for an entirely different presidential administration at this point. The White House wants at a minimum for North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile testing before considering negotiations.

Of course, what the White House says might not matter anyway, because North Korean sources are saying they have no interest in talks:

In the weeks before U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s call Tuesday for talks with Pyongyang, North Korean officials were privately telling their international counterparts that they see little point in discussions with the United States and other key powers, several current and former U.S. and U.N.-based officials told Foreign Policy.


North Koreans complained that Washington reneged on a pledge made earlier this fall to to restart talks with Pyongyang if it halted all nuclear and missile tests for sixty days, according to those sources. Instead of talks, North Korea says, it got slapped with a fresh round of U.S. sanctions.

It’s good to have a normally functioning, coherent government in Washington. Particularly now, when there are plenty of signs from Pyongyang that it would be amenable to negotiations under the right circumstances (a different US administration, perhaps). Their grandiose and almost certainly inaccurate declarations that they’ve completed all necessary nuclear research and testing are practically an open invitation to resume diplomacy, but it’s clear the Trump administration won’t and probably can’t take the lead on that front.



Moscow says it is amenable to possibly easing its arms embargo on Libya. The Government of National Accord in Tripoli is working to get a general UN arms embargo on Libya changed to allow its military to import more weapons. One problem remains determining what the line is between the GNA’s military and militia units that are aligned with the GNA.


Eighty year old stroke victim Abdelaziz Bouteflika may be preparing to run again in Algeria’s 2019 presidential election, which would be ridiculous if Bouteflika were anything more than a civilian figurehead for the Algerian military and business elite (actually it’s pretty ridiculous anyway). Naturally, though, there’s a lot of talk of succession in Algeria these days–I mean, forget the possibility that he might not run in 2019, it’s a minor miracle that Bouteflika is still alive right now. The expectation is that the elites who run the country (“the powers that be”) will look for a replacement who embodies as much continuity as possible, though Bouteflika’s son Said is probably out because of resistance to hereditary succession.


The G5 Sahel force, the proposed 5000-man multinational force being formed to combat extremist groups in West Africa, got a substantial boost on Wednesday when it received pledges of support totaling $130 million from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. There is some urgency to get the G5 force up and running due to fears that ISIS fighters fleeing Iraq and Syria might make their way to the region and attempt to regroup there.


The United Nations and the South Sudanese government say that South Sudan needs $1.7 billion in international assistance for 2018 to keep needed humanitarian aid flowing to 6 million people there. The civil war has displaced some four million, roughly half of whom are internally displaced within the country, and has drastically impacted the country’s food production capacity.


At least 13 people have been killed in a Thursday morning attack on a police training camp in Mogadishu. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.


France has been the G5 plan’s biggest foreign booster, which makes a certain amount of sense given Paris’s colonial history in the region and unwillingness to completely let go of it. But a new report on the 1994 Rwandan Genocide should represent a cautionary tale to any African nation hoping for French assistance with anything:

A new report commissioned by Rwanda’s government accuses France of supplying weapons and protection to the perpetrators of its 1994 genocide in which over 800,000 people were killed, deepening a feud between the East African country and its former benefactor.


The report by U.S. law firm Cunningham Levy Muse cites evidence that purportedly shows French complicity before, during and after the genocide by ethnic Hutu extremists against ethnic Tutsi and some Hutu moderates.


French officials provided safe sanctuary to some genocide suspects and have obstructed attempts to bring them to justice, the report says.

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