Asia/Africa update: August 28 2017


Tuesday is a day ending in the letter y, so I guess that means North Korea shot something into the ocean again. This time Pyongyang fired a projectile that flew over the Japanese island of Hokkaido and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. It was probably an intermediate-range ballistic missile, but as this just happened a few hours ago the people who study such things will likely need some time to analyze this. Overflying Japan like this is a bit more daring than the typical North Korean missile test and prompted an angry response from Tokyo. No response from the US as yet.

On Saturday, the North Koreans test-fired several missiles, possibly of the short-range variety, but there’s some dispute over exactly how many were fired and whether they were short-range, which have a minimum range of 300 km, or close-range, which is anything whose range is shorter than that.



The Pentagon says it’s not ready to implement Donald Trump’s new strategy, such as it is, for Afghanistan, because key decisions, like the final number of new troops being deployed, haven’t yet been made. It might help if the Pentagon knew how many US personnel are currently in Afghanistan, but apparently it doesn’t because this is the most brilliantly-fought war in American history.

Meanwhile, if you’re not wrapped up watching climate change destroy another American city, spare a thought for Afghan farmers, whose livelihoods are also being threatened by this cruel Chinese hoax. Early snow melts in the mountains are sending torrents of fresh water toward Afghan villages too early in the year for farmers to use. Rain patterns are increasingly irregular, compounding the problem, and of course Afghanistan’s central government has been little more than a figment of the imagination for decades, so there’s been no investment in any sort of infrastructure that might help farmers adjust to the new normal. The international community, meanwhile, in an effort to “help” Afghanistan by destroying poppy crops, has been dumping pesticides on the country that are killing all manner of indigenous flora. It’s a fantastic scene all around, and while none of this may seem like it matters compared to the war against the Taliban, it’s unlikely that Afghanistan will ever be stabilized until something is done to help these farmers overcome these challenges and to reduce the country’s level of food insecurity.


Two Pakistani soldiers were killed late Sunday by a bomb in South Waziristan. No claim of responsibility that I’ve seen.


Pakistani officials say that Indian soldiers firing artillery across the Line of Control in Kashmir killed three civilians on Monday. The Indian and Pakistani forces were apparently exchanging fire with one another.


This is probably not great news:

Symantec Corp, a digital security company, says it has identified a sustained cyber spying campaign, likely state-sponsored, against Indian and Pakistani entities involved in regional security issues.

In a threat intelligence report that was sent to clients in July, Symantec said the online espionage effort dated back to October 2016.

The campaign appeared to be the work of several groups, but tactics and techniques used suggest that the groups were operating with “similar goals or under the same sponsor”, probably a nation state, according to the threat report, which was reviewed by Reuters. It did not name a state.

The article seems to suggest that the malware could have originated in Pakistan, but frankly I’m not entirely clear on that part.


On the plus side, both India and China have pulled their forces back from the disputed Doklam region, deescalating what was threatening to turn into another open conflict between the two states. It’s not clear what agreement the two sides reached, but India appears to have pulled back first. China may have agreed to stop the road-building project that caused this whole flare-up in the first place, but there’s no way to know that for sure. I guess if they don’t start the project back up, we’ll have our answer.


Rohingya civilians are once again fleeing for the Bangladesh border, after a new round of violence in Rakhine state that has killed 96 people since Thursday night. They’ve been met, of course, with stiff resistance from Bangladeshi border guards. As many as 3500 new refugees may have made it across the border. Rohingya insurgents reportedly carried out a series of attacks on police and army installations in Rakhine, triggering the new violence.


Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is missing and has likely fled the country. On Friday, Yingluck was scheduled to be sentenced for “negligence” after having been found guilty in a trial set up by the military junta that ousted her in 2014, but she claimed to be ill and failed to appear. Clearly that was a ruse. She’s believed to be in Dubai, where her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, lives under similar circumstances (he was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and likewise fled the country to avoid being imprisoned by the junta). Frankly the junta is probably loving this, because now Yingluck is out of their hair but not in a way that can really arouse her base.



Africa Is a Country’s Ampson Hagan looks at how recent increases in the number of African migrants moving north has led to a resurgence of xenophobia in Algeria:

Until recently, the Sahara desert has never been a destination for black African migrants, but as trans-Saharan travel from Niger to Algeria has increased due to closures of other migration routes to Europe, Algerian desert towns and cities have become the new landing spots for many black migrants. The “influx” of black migrants into the Sahara has sparked racial tensions between them and Arab North Africans, with numerous attacks by Arabs against black migrants occurring throughout Algeria. Anti-migration efforts have focused on the Sahara desert, the new path to Europe, deporting thousands of black African migrants from Algeria and “repatriating” or dumping them in Niger each year. Since Niger allowed Algerian authorities to cross into its territory to repatriate migrants in 2015, many black migrants have reported racist treatment from Algerian security forces during deportation, including theft and violence. In addition to direct police action against black migrants, Algerian officials have deployed xenophobic attacks against migrants in the press to drum up anti-migrant sentiment.


The European Union’s “big four” (Germany, France, Italy, and Spain) agreed on Monday to help finance a number of “reception centers” for migrants in Libya, Chad, and Niger, to help process their cases before they attempt to continue on to Europe. In principle this could be a positive development to the extent that it catches these migrants before they have a chance to fall prey to human traffickers and, hopefully, will allow at least some of them to actually obtain legal asylum in Europe. In practice, it’s likely to amount to throwing money at these three countries to detain and deport migrants before they become a problem for the EU, with little actual allowance for letting them continue on to Europe.


The United Nations has expanded the prerogatives of its peacekeepers in South Sudan to allow them to operate more aggressively to protect civilians caught in that country’s civil war:

Between December 2013 and July 2016, more than 100 civilians and four U.N. peacekeepers were killed in attacks on U.N. bases when peacekeepers didn’t shoot back, fled, or delayed responding, according to data from the U.N. and CIVIC.

But a chastened UNMISS has gradually taken a tougher stance, boosted by the January arrival of new chief David Shearer, a former New Zealand labor party leader.

“We are trying to make our peacekeeping more robust,” Shearer told Reuters. “Our peacekeepers are going to stand up to situations and challenge them.”

Several incidents demonstrate the change. In April, peacekeepers deployed to Aburoc, a village on the Nile. After the U.N. arrived, rebels withdrew, and a government offensive that had displaced 20,000 civilians paused. Aid workers then intervened to stop a cholera outbreak.


Kenya’s Supreme Court has ordered the government to give (allegedly) defeated presidential challenger Raila Odinga and his supporters limited access to the servers and electronic devices used to tally the vote in the disputed August 8 election. Odinga alleges that the vote was rigged in favor of incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta and is challenging the results in court.

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