Asia/Africa update: August 28 2018

ASIA

AFGHANISTAN

Secretary of Defense James Mattis seemed to rule out privatizing US military operations in Afghanistan on Tuesday. Of course he’s not the guy who would be making that decision.

According to the South China Morning Post, Beijing is planning to build a military “training camp” in Afghanistan:

Once the camp is completed, the People’s Liberation Army is likely to send hundreds of military personnel – at least one battalion’s worth – to Afghanistan’s isolated Wakhan Corridor, one of the sources who is familiar with the matter told the South China Morning Post. A battalion usually has more than 500 troops.

The corridor is a narrow strip of inhospitable and barely accessible land extending about 350km (220 miles) from the northern Afghan province of Badakhshan to China’s Muslim region of Xinjiang, where Chinese authorities have carried out sweeping crackdowns on the Uygur ethnic minority group in recent months.

In addition to being a potential source of radicalized Uyghur fighters, Afghanistan is important to the Belt and Road project, which has increased China’s interest in its security.

MYANMAR

If you thought Myanmar’s military (the Tatmadaw) wasn’t going to suffer any consequences from its attempted genocide of the Rohingya people, think again. They’ve now paid what is in many respects the highest price: they lost their Facebook page. Facebook played a significant though probably overblown role in spreading anti-Rohingya messages in Myanmar ahead of last year’s attempted genocide and now it’s trying to make amends by shutting down sites that promote anti-Rohingya hate. Now that the UN has accused the Tatmadaw of genocide, their Facebook page has joined that list.

PHILIPPINES

A bombing targeting a street festival in Sultan Kudarat province on Tuesday killed at least two people and left 37 more injured. ISIS claimed responsibility though that hasn’t been confirmed.

NORTH KOREA

Mattis also told reporters on Tuesday that the US has “no plans” to continue suspending its joint military exercises with South Korea. That may change if there are any diplomatic breakthroughs with Pyongyang, but somehow it doesn’t seem like that’s very likely at least in the near term. Nice to see things are still going really well on this front.

Although South Korea and, until recently, the US have been warming up to North Korea, a new Japanese national security report makes it clear that Tokyo is not on the same page:

“North Korea’s military activities pose the most serious and pressing threat our nation has faced,” the white paper said. “Its military actions represent an unprecedented serious and imminent threat to Japan’s national security. There is no change in our basic recognition about the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles.”

JAPAN

Donald Trump’s relationship with Shinzō Abe is apparently a bit of a mixed bag, decent on a personal level but rough on a policy level and including the occasional reference to Pearl Harbor (no, really):

The two men have a tight rapport — Trump has met with Abe eight times, more than with any other counterpart, and talked to him on the phone 26 times. White House aides say they joke about golf, with Trump complimenting Abe on his agile moves while ribbing him about video footage that appears to show him falling into a sand bunker. Trump sees Abe as a savvy negotiator and a worthy counterpart — unlike many other world leaders who draw his derision. He calls Abe his “good friend.”

“I’ve never heard him [trash]-talk Abe. And you can’t say that about a lot of the world leaders,” said a U.S. official, who, like other White House, State Department and Japanese government officials interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a crucial bilateral relationship.

But in recent months, the president’s unorthodox approach to North Korea and deeply negative view of Japan’s trade practices have locked Trump and Abe in a series of agree-to-disagree stalemates, to the growing frustration of Tokyo.

AFRICA

LIBYA

A US airstrike on the town of Bani Walid in northwestern Libya reportedly killed one ISIS fighter on Tuesday.

BURKINA FASO

Eight members of Burkina Faso’s security forces were killed on Monday when their vehicle drove over a bomb in the eastern part of the country. It’s unclear who was responsible for the bomb.

SOUTH SUDAN

South Sudanese rebels have reportedly agreed to sign the most recent draft of their peace accord with the South Sudanese government. Rebel leader Riek Machar had refused to sign the accord earlier in the day over ongoing arguments about power-sharing and the South Sudanese constitution. The Sudanese government apparently assured Machar that his issues would be addressed by the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development group, and so Machar is now supposed to sign the draft on Thursday.

SOUTH AFRICA

Christopher Lee writes about the internationalism of white supremacy in light of Donald Trump’s recent attention to the land distribution issue in South Africa:

White supremacy has never operated in isolation. While it has always asserted its malevolence in local and national politics, it has consistently relied on an international receptivity and interdependence, whether formal or informal. Activists and intellectuals cited such connections time and time again during the 20th century. Consider, for example, what Nelson Mandela writes in Long Walk to Freedom(1994), when comparing the South African situation to Algeria, remarking, “The situation in Algeria was the closest model to our own in that the rebels faced a large white settler community that ruled the indigenous majority.” Or consider an observation by Frantz Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth(1961), as if in an imagined dialogue with Mandela, when he concludes, “The colonial subject is a man penned in; apartheid is but one method of compartmentalizing the colonial world.” Or, in the American context, consider Malcolm X and his geographically expansive “Message to the Grassroots” speech—ranging from Bandung, to Kenya, to Cuba, to Detroit—delivered in 1963, in which he states:

We have a common enemy. We have this in common: we have a common oppressor, a common exploiter, and a common discriminator. But once we all realize that we have a common enemy, then we unite—on the basis of what we have in common. And what we have foremost in common is that enemy—the white man. He’s an enemy to all of us.

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