Shithole update #2 (Asia/Africa): January 11-12 2018



A Friday morning Taliban attack on a police outpost in Farah province killed three Afghan police officers.

US forces on Thursday reportedly bombed an Afghan government-aligned militia in Nangarhar province after one or more members of that militia opened fire on US special forces troops amid some kind of argument. At least 13 militia fighters were believed to have been killed, and reports said that two American soldiers were also killed in the firefight though the US military is denying that. Meanwhile, also on Thursday five Afghan police officers were killed in a Taliban attack in Helmand province.

The US military is investigating a video that appears to show a Special Forces soldier firing a shotgun (possibly loaded with less-than-lethal ammunition, though it’s hard to see how shooting anything at somebody while they’re driving is “less than lethal”) at a guy driving a truck in eastern Afghanistan. There doesn’t appear to be anything in the video that would explain why the soldier shot at the driver, though I suppose he might have been trying to do a “hearts and minds” thing by giving the guy total amnesia and possibly getting him to wreck his truck and…wait, I think I just lost my train of thought.


Pakistani army chief of staff Qamar Javed Bajwa told US Central Command head Joseph Votel in a phone call earlier this week that “the entire Pakistani nation felt betrayed” by Donald Trump’s criticism and by US aid cuts to Pakistan earlier this month. But he also said that Pakistan would continue its half-assed war on terrorism even without US financial support, and even suggested that operations against Afghan groups operating in Pakistan were underway (this is what’s known as a “believe it when you see it” statement). Votel apparently assured him that the US is not planning to undertake unilateral military action on Pakistani soil.

The New Yorker’s Nicholas Schmiddle looks at the “maddening” US-Pakistan counterterrorism relationship:

Thirteen years ago, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Pakistan with a list. He pulled it from his shirt pocket during a meeting with President Pervez Musharraf, and told the general how, during a recent Oval Office gathering, President George W. Bush had expressed bewilderment and annoyance that most of the terrorists on the list were suspected of hiding out in Pakistan—an ostensible American ally. Musharraf promised to look into the matter, according to a participant in the meeting. And, less than a month later, Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or I.S.I., arrested one of the men atop the list. “Here’s the truth,” a former senior U.S. intelligence official told me. Pakistan has been “in many ways” America’s best counterterrorism partner, the official said. “Nobody had taken more bad guys off the battlefield than the Pakistanis.”


Yet there was, and remains, a maddening quality to their coöperation, the official said. Pakistan’s intelligence service went “all-in” against certain terrorists, like Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, while continuing to support the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqanis, and anti-India jihadis. On at least two occasions, the former acting C.I.A. director Michael Morell flew to Pakistan with a list of militants the United States hoped Pakistan would apprehend or confront. Just last month, Defense Secretary James Mattis went there on a similar mission. “It’s frustrating. Our talking points have been identical for the last fifteen years: ‘You need to get tough on terrorism, and you need to close the sanctuaries,’ ” one former intelligence official told me.


The Pakistanis say that Indian soldiers killed a woman on Friday by firing across the line of control into Pakistani Kashmir.


Bangladeshi security forces killed three suspected Islamist militants in a shootout on Friday in Dhaka.


Nepal finished running a fiber optic cable into China on Friday, which may not seem like a big deal to you but it means that the country is no longer completely dependent on India for its internet service provision.


At Jacobin, journalist Carlos Sardiña Galache has written a very interesting piece tracing Myanmar’s development from colonial times and looking particularly at Renowned Democracy Activist™ Aung San Suu Kyi’s role in stifling democracy and supporting institutionalized (and occasionally genocidal) racism:

Burma — officially known as Myanmar — celebrated the seventieth anniversary of its independence at a moment when the failures of its incomplete nation-building project have become increasingly evident.


Last year saw the almost complete ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingya minority in the northwestern state of Arakan. More than 600,000 Muslims fled to overstretched refugee camps in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, wars between the Tatmadaw, as the Burmese Army is known, and several ethno-nationalist armed groups continued to rage.


The government’s civilian wing, led by Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD), seems unable to offer a vision for the country that differs from the “discipline-flourishing democracy” envisioned by the military junta that ruled Burma for five decades.


The generals who once controlled the nation have accomplished an astonishing feat. Most of the population opposed them, but now a large section of the Buddhist Bamar population (the country’s majority group) and the Buddhist Rakhine population (the majority in Arakan) support — even cheer — the military’s “clearance operations” against the Rohingya. Meanwhile, the civilian government either covers up or flatly denies the atrocities while trying to move toward peace with other armed ethnic groups. Suu Kyi doesn’t control the military, but her government appears too timid to make meaningful change anyway.


Rodrigo Duterte’s approval ratings are back up. Good for him. Now he can feel free to turn his roving death squads regular police force loose again to execute random Philippine young people battle the scourge of drugs or whatever.


The Diplomat has more on Pakistan’s decision to walk away from its $14 billion Daimer-Bhasha Dam project with China:

About a month ago, Pakistan withdrew its request to include the $14-billion Diamer-Bhasha Dam in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project citing strict monetary conditions on Beijing’s part as being against the country’s national interests. The fact that an energy-starved country like Pakistan has pulled out of a dam project that it has not been able to complete on its own for years is significant.


While the exclusion of a single major project doesn’t mean that the whole infrastructure scheme between the two countries is in danger, observers warn that Beijing’s strict monetary conditions have landed the future of Pakistan’s whole economy in a tight spot.  The whole process of Chinese-funded projects has not been transparent. There are alarming reports about the levels of debt these secret dealings will impose on Pakistan.

The financial terms China has been offering for many of its Belt and Road infrastructure projects are onerous, and if Pakistan starts canceling more of them because of that, or if more countries start to follow Pakistan’s lead, then the viability of the whole initiative could come into question.



The Libyan government has destroyed the rest of the country’s chemical weapons, earning an “atta boy” and, probably, a “Sorry About the Slave Markets” card from the White House.

At LobeLog, Giorgio Cafiero talks about Khalifa Haftar’s recent moves against Libya’s Amazigh (Berber) community, which could become a whole new front in Libya’s multi-faceted civil war:

Late last month, gunmen loyal to Haftar abducted Rabie al-Jayash, a prominent Amazigh activist, outside a theater in Benghazi after hearing him speak Tamazight. In response, the Amazigh Supreme Council released an official statement condemning Jayash’s abduction and other violations of Libyan Amazigh rights at the hands of Haftar’s forces, and calling on the international community to provide protection.


From the Libyan Amazigh perspective, Haftar threatens their dream of establishing a civil state in Libya with democratic institutions that protect the rights of all of the North African country’s minorities. The Libyan Amazigh frame their struggle against Haftar as simply the current chapter of a 1,400-year-old resistance to Arabization. The fight for the cultural, economic, and political rights denied under Gaddafi drove the Libyan Amazigh to support what they call “North Africa’s Spring,” not an “Arab Spring.”


Ahead of a large-scale national demonstrations planned for this weekend, Tunisian authorities have been arresting protesters by the hundreds–we’re up to around 800 now, to be more specific. People are protesting the country’s weak economy, high prices on basic necessities, austerity, and corruption, among other things. Or, to put it another way, they’re protesting over most of the same conditions that caused the Arab Spring movement to begin in Tunisia back in 2011, conditions that–despite political turnover since then, have gone almost entirely unmet. Tunisia has experienced real political reform, which has led some observers to call it the lone Arab Spring success story, but most people’s lives haven’t improved. In many cases they’ve gotten worse, as Western institutions have moved in with their Very Sensible insistence on austerity. Tunisian men are looking for work in Libya, despite the fact that the social order in Libya is almost completely gone. No wonder people are back in the streets.


The Senegalese government is now working with Guinea-Bissau to find the perpetrators of last weekend’s attack that killed 14 people in the country’s Casamance region. Casamance separatists are considered suspect in the attack, but the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance has denied involvement and says the killings were related to an illegal logging ring in the area.


Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s pledge earlier this month to free the country’s political prisoners has already been walked back, blamed on a mistranslation. Nevertheless, journalist Mohammed Ademo and activist Jeffrey Smith say that rising ethnic tension and a weakening economy have put Ethiopia on a path to change, one way or another:

One fact remains clear, however. Following three years of escalating anti-government protests — mostly by the Oromo ethnic group and to an extent the Amhara, who together comprise two-thirds of the country’s 100 million people — Ethiopia can no longer afford to ignore demands for political reform. For years, the regime has sacrificed respect for basic political rights and civil liberties on the altar of economic growth. And its claims of a rapidly growing economy have always been dubious at best. The status quo can no longer hold.


One Somali soldier was killed on Friday in what seems to have been an accidental border clash between Kenyan and Somali forces. Allegedly, at least, the Kenyan troops mistook the Somalis for al-Shabab fighters.


Congolese General Norbert Dabira has been arrested on suspicion of planning a coup. The plot allegedly involved bringing down President Denis Sassou N’Guesso’s plane in flight, which probably wouldn’t have been so good for N’Guesso.


The Zambian army moved in on Friday to put down a riot in Lusaka. The country is in the midst of a cholera outbreak and people are growing angry over forced disruptions to daily life posed by the government’s response. In this case, the government forced street vendors in one of the city’s neighborhoods to pack up and leave, setting off the rioters.

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