Asia/Africa update: June 24-25 2017



Taliban fighters killed ten Afghan police officers on Saturday in an attack on a checkpoint outside of the city of Herat. All told, Agence France-Presse says that Afghanistan just suffered its deadliest Ramadan since the US invaded back in 2001, with over 200 people having been killed. Well, you know what they say: one step forward, 200 or so steps back.


I updated Friday’s report to note that the death toll from Friday’s multiple terrorist bombings is now at 85, and that the Sunni extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had claimed responsibility for the deadlier of Friday’s two attacks, in Parachinar, but I realize many of you may have missed that. On Sunday, six children were killed in South Waziristan when they picked up an improvised explosive device that apparently looked like a toy. That happened a day after two Pakistani children in the same part of the country were killed when they stepped on a landmine.


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is meeting Donald Trump for the first time in Washington on Monday. This is a meeting worth watching. The US-India relationship was given fairly high priority by George W. Bush and–in his second term at least–Barack Obama, but it’s not clear how Trump plans to proceed.

India is now a huge market for American weapons, which we know Trump likes to sell. But India also receives significant foreign aid, which Trump doesn’t like, and Trump also wants to change US immigration rules in ways that could make it harder for Indian tech workers to get visas to come to America. Depending on how Trump feels about his relationship with China tomorrow, he’ll either want to continue past US policy of improving ties with India to help counter Beijing or he’ll decide that India is superfluous to his interests in Asia. And there’s also the personal relationship between Trump and Modi to consider. They’re both right-wing authoritarian personalities, and Trump seems to have a pretty good rapport with those types, but I suppose we’ll have to wait and see how it goes.


An Indonesian police officer was stabbed and killed in the city of Medan on Sunday, in an attack that seems to have been carried out by Islamist terrorists. One of the attackers was killed at the scene and another arrested. It’s suspected that Indonesia has pockets of ISIS sympathizers all over the country, so there is growing concern about the frequency of these kinds of low-level attacks.


Philippine forces called a short truce in fighting in Marawi on Sunday in order to allow a group of Muslim envoys to enter the city and speak with militant leader Abdullah Maute. Which, I would think, should dispel rumors that he was killed early on in the Marawi fighting (authorities still believe his brother Omar was killed along with two other Maute brothers) and the rumors that were circulating on Saturday saying that Abdullah had escaped the city. The Maute fighters reportedly released a few hostages.


Mongolians are heading to the polls Monday to elect a new president:

Most voters expect a two-horse race between the ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) candidate Miyeegombo Enkhbold, an investment-friendly career politician, and former martial arts star and resource nationalist Khaltmaa Battulga of the opposition Democratic Party.

But Sainkhuu Ganbaatar of the breakaway Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) could win enough votes to force a second round in two weeks.

The Mongolian economy is in a rut and the country is being put through an IMF-mandated austerity death spiral, and all three of these candidates have apparently been at the center of corruption scandals, so it sounds like an auspicious electoral environment.



The Libyan National Army said on Saturday that it had secured Souq al-Hout, one of the two remaining neighborhoods in Benghazi where Islamist fighters were still resisting their advance. Meanwhile, the Benghazi Defense Brigades, the organization that formed last June to try to take the city back from the LNA, says it’s prepared to disband and be absorbed into the Government of National Accord’s military.


Morocco’s ongoing protest movement is starting to affect its foreign relations:

Morocco has recalled its ambassador in the Hague after accusing Dutch authorities of failing to take action against a Moroccan it says is funding civil unrest and who is residing in the Netherlands, the Moroccan foreign ministry said on Sunday.

Morocco’s foreign minister named the man as Said Chaaou, a 50-year-old former parliamentarian from Morocco’s northern Rif region, who has been the subject of two arrest warrants accusing him of criminal association and international drug trafficking, issued by a Moroccan court in 2010 and 2015.

The Moroccan statement did not accuse Chaaou directly of organizing recent protests in the north of the country but suggested he was involved in supporting unrest in Rif region, long a hotbed of anti-government sentiment. A movement called Hirak al Chaabi in Arabic has led months of protests, accusing officials of corruption.

“Specific information has been provided to the Dutch authorities for several months regarding the involvement of this trafficker in financing and providing logistical support to certain sectors in northern Morocco,” the ministry said in a statement.

“It was made clear to the Dutch authorities that it is imperative that concrete and urgent measures be taken.”

People actually affiliated with Hirak say Chaaou has no connection to the movement, but even if he did, I’m not clear why that would matter to Dutch officials, since Hirak is a peaceful protest movement. If there’s a legitimate charge against this guy over drug trafficking, then it seems like the Moroccan government would be better off pursuing extradition over that than over the “accusation” that Chaaou has been helping people exercise their basic right to free expression.


An ongoing rebellion in the Republic of the Congo’s southern Pool province has displaced some 80,000 people since it began last year, according to the Congo Republican government and the United Nations. President Denis Sassou Nguesso’s government is reportedly fighting a group called “the Ninjas,” under their religio-political leader Pastor Ntumi. The Ninjas were involved in every internal conflict in the Republic of the Congo in the 1990s and through the mid-2000s, but they’ve ostensibly been disbanded since 2008.

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