World update: February 19 2019

ASIA

AFGHANISTAN

Six civilians were killed by a roadside bomb in Laghman province on Tuesday. No group has claimed responsibility but the Taliban are likely culprits given the location.

At LobeLog, journalist Alia Ahmed lays out a path forward for Afghanistan as peace talks continue between the US and the Taliban:

In this phase, the immediate neighbors of Afghanistan are the regional players with a critical role to influence intra-Afghan peacemaking. All of them realize that power-sharing is the only way to end the war and move toward peace. Therefore, it stands to reason that their influence must be to counsel restraint on the Afghan parties and steer them toward pragmatism and compromise. Pakistan, together with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, can prevail upon the Taliban and their various internal factions while Iran and Russia can put pressure on the Hazaras, Tajiks, and the north. China can play the traditional neutral with growing regional interest and ties with all sides. This has never been easy, as witnessed over and over again by Pakistan: mishandling the U.S. demand to surrender Osama, failing to prevent the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, and so on.

Peacemaking may or may not entail peacekeeping. The international community and the regional players should be ready to discharge their responsibility as the situation requires.

The best-case scenario seems to be a phased U.S./NATO withdrawal over 18 months and a ceasefire that holds. An interim government in Kabul would form with Taliban participation. An intra-Afghan dialogue would take place on a new constitution and on all national issues. And international observers would monitor national elections, perhaps by October.

KASHMIR

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday offered to help India investigate last week’s Kashmiri bombing in which more than 40 Indian paramilitaries were killed. Khan denied Indian accusations that Pakistan was involved in the attack, which was carried out by the extremist group Jaish-e-Mohammad. He also warned India against attempting any military reprisal against Pakistan.

NORTH KOREA

Donald Trump’s North Korea envoy, Stephen Biegun, is on his way to Hanoi to make final preparations for the February 27-28 Trump-Kim Jong-un summit, their second such meeting. Speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, Trump said he’s “in no rush” to achieve North Korean denuclearization, “as long as there is no [nuclear/missile] testing.” It’s unclear what progress, if any, can be expected from this second Trump-Kim meeting, but it is known that South Korean President Moon Jae-in has offered to increase his country’s economic engagement with North Korea if it will help sweeten the pot and motivate Kim to move more quickly. This is not terribly surprising, as Moon would like to increase engagement with the North in general.

AFRICA

SENEGAL

Senegalese President Macky Sall is expected to handily win reelection on Sunday. He’s credited with boosting Senegal’s economy into one of the strongest in Africa, with annual six percent growth, though job creation hasn’t kept up and there are signs of discontent among younger Senegalese. He’s also locked up his two most popular potential challengers, ostensibly on corruption charges that their supporters strongly believe were politically motivated.

BURKINA FASO

According to the United Nations, insurgent violence and terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso have displaced over 100,000 people. Most of the displacement has occurred in the past couple of months, when there’s been a marked increase in the frequency of violent incidents, and reflects a larger spread of groups affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb from the Sahel region into coastal West Africa.

NIGERIA

The massive attack last week in Nigeria’s Kaduna state, which was initially reported on Friday, apparently took place on Monday and the death toll, originally reported as 66, is now over 130. Most of the dead appear to be Fulani, a predominantly Muslim/herding community that has been locked in an increasingly violent conflict with the predominantly Christian/farming Adara community for several years now. This would seem to suggest a motive, though Nigerian authorities haven’t drawn any conclusions about the attack yet.

SOUTH SUDAN

Al Jazeera reports on ongoing conflict in South Sudan, where some rebel factions have refused to join on to last year’s peace deal:

TANZANIA

Journalist Jean-Christophe Servant writes about a joint Chinese-Omani-Tanzanian project to develop a small coastal Tanzanian town into a major global shipping port:

Bagamoyo, a small fishing port about 45 miles north of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, may become Africa’s biggest container port in the next 10 years. China’s largest public-port operator, China Merchants Holdings, is about to start what the Ecofin Agency called “the most significant construction project in the last four decades of Chinese-Tanzanian relations.”

Part of the $10 billion funding will come from the Sultanate of Oman’s sovereign-wealth fund and China’s Exim Bank. There will be a special economic zone modeled on Shenzhen, China. The piers and docks will extend along 10 miles of coastline, and handle 20 million containers a year, more than Rotterdam, Europe’s biggest port. Tanzanian authorities say it will create an industrial revolution in a mainly rural country where 70 percent still live below the poverty threshold.

EUROPE

UNITED KINGDOM

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says that no European Union member will stand in the way if the UK wants to extend its Brexit deadline. So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice. The catch is that Britain will have to participate in elections for the European Parliament if it’s not out of the EU by May, and that’s an expense the British government would really rather not incur.

AMERICAS

VENEZUELA

With opposition leader Juan Guaidó still intent on trying to bust through Nicolás Maduro’s blockade and bring humanitarian aid into Venezuelan on Saturday, the Venezuelan military on Tuesday reiterated that it remains in Maduro’s camp. It’s blockading both the Colombian and Brazilian borders, the two overland routes by which Guaidó will attempt to bring in the aid, and also announced the closure of Venezuela’s sea and air corridors to Curaçao and the Lesser Antilles islands, where Guaidó has also been amassing a relief shipment. It now appears that dueling concerts will be held Saturday, one on the Colombian side of the border to support aid to the Venezuelan people, the other on the Venezuelan side of the border to tell the people at the Colombian concert to mind their own business.

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