World update: September 6 2017



At least six people were wounded Wednesday evening by a suicide bomber who attacked Bagram air base, and two civilians were killed by a roadside bomb in Laghman province.

The Pentagon has finally put a troop number to its mini-surge in Afghanistan. It will deploy 3500 additional soldiers, slightly under the expected 4000, which will put the overall US deployment in Afghanistan at 14,500. If there’s been any mention of the timetable for deploying these additional forces, I have yet to see it. I assume it will start fairly soon but I have no idea how quickly it will happen.

Assuming those additional soldiers arrive relatively soon, they’re going to be just in time to clean up the fallout from America’s latest unforced error in the “hearts and minds” campaign. It seems the US military earlier this week distributed propaganda flyers with the Taliban flag superimposed on the image of a dog. OH NO THEY DIDNT! RACK ‘EM! Big LOLs all around, am I right? Except here’s the Taliban flag:


That’s a little calligraphic so it might be hard to read, but it’s the Shahadah, or Islamic profession of faith: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” So the Americans stamped the thing all Muslims say to profess their two core religious beliefs on the image of a dog and handed that out to a bunch of devout Muslims. Dogs, famously, are considered unclean animals according to Islamic law, but even if they weren’t I think you could still see why this might be insulting. These were propaganda flyers, all right–Taliban propaganda.

To be fair, I think you have to cut the Americans some slack here. We’ve only been doing war on Afghanistan for nearly 16 years. You can’t expect to learn basic, fundamental details about the local culture you’re destroying until you’re into years 20-25 at least.


I must issue a correction and apology. Yesterday, I intimated that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was going to Myanmar and planned to raise the issue of the Rohingya genocide with Myanmar leader and Opposite Day Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Modi did raise the issue…but only to say that India shares Myanmar’s “concerns about extremist violence in Rakhine state.” That would be the “extremist violence” perpetrated by the people the Myanmar government is trying to evict and/or exterminate. How dare they. I am embarrassed for having given Modi the benefit of the doubt here, as I should have known that the Indian prime minister, a connoisseur of anti-Muslim pogroms, was unlikely to go to Myanmar and actually defend Muslims–particularly not the Rohingya, since his government is currently working up a plan to deport the ~40,000 Rohingya refugees in India.

Again, my apologies. I will try to do better.


The United Nations estimates that up to 300,000 Rohingya may flee Myanmar when all is said and done in this latest round of genocidal violence. Already nearly half that number have crossed into Bangladesh, stretching refugee camps’ capacity to the limit, and Myanmar’s military doesn’t seem inclined to stop its campaign against them anytime soon. In fact, Naypyidaw is reportedly engaging in heavy diplomacy with China and Russia to see if either or both will cover for it at the UN Security Council, which is not something one does if one is planning to stop doing the bad things one is currently doing.  Suu Kyi, doing her part, has taken to Facebook to argue that all this fussing over the supposed Rohingya being supposedly ethnically cleansed is all so much Hashtag Fake News being bandied about by scary “terrorists.”

You know how you can tell that there’s really no such thing as international law? Because there’s no court in which the Rohingya could sue Aung San Suu Kyi for the ~$1 million she scammed out of the Nobel committee.


Prime Minister Hun Sen says he wants to stay in his job for another ten years, on top of the 19 or so he’s already been in it. And since he’s fond of jailing opposition leaders, I’m thinking he shouldn’t have any trouble sticking around as long as he wants.


The Philippine army is collaborating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as it prepares a final offensive to finish off the Islamist insurgents still holed up in Marawi. The MILF (yes, yes, let it out so we can all move on), of course, fought an insurrection against the Philippine government from the late 1970s through 2014, but its fighters have retained their weapons and training. They’re also opposed to extremist factions like Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group–the “Islamic” in “Moro Islamic Liberation Front” is more a cultural marker than an expression of religious zeal. They’re not only opposed to the Islamists ideologically, they see the influx of radical, ISIS-aligned factions as a threat to the possibility of achieving some autonomy for the Philippine Muslim community through negotiation with Manila.


The US is circulating a new UN Security Council draft resolution that would impose the toughest sanctions on North Korea yet. The proposed sanctions would ban all oil and natural gas shipments to North Korea, freeze all of Kim Jong-un’s and the North Korean government’s overseas assets, block countries from hiring North Korean workers, and prohibit all trade in North Korean textiles. Additionally, it identifies several ships that have been used to bust UN sanctions on North Korea previously and authorizes UN member states to stop those vessels and inspect their cargo at will. This is a very tough sanctions package and the brunt of its pain, particularly in the ban on fuel shipments, would be borne by the North Korean people.

Russia and China are both likely to object to this new measure, but they’re apparently being lobbied by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who came into office a proponent of opening up talks with North Korea but who is clearly feeling pressure to be more forceful in the face of Pyongyang’s repeated missile/nuclear tests. Moon is likely to be a more effective advocate than Donald Trump–admittedly not a high bar to clear–but he’s got an uphill climb to get both countries on board.



Muhammadu Buhari’s minister of women’s affairs, Aisha Alhassan, told Reuters on Wednesday that Buhari privately pledged not to run for reelection when he was running for president back in 2015. Assuming Alhassan isn’t just making this up and/or that Buhari hasn’t changed his mind since then, this obviously shakes up the 2019 presidential campaign. However, Buhari’s health problems already had many questioning whether or not he would stand for a second term.


The US Treasury Department on Wednesday announced new sanctions against three men: Lieutenant General Malek Reuben Riak Rengu, General Paul Malong Awan, and South Sudanese Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth. All three serve in President Salva Kiir’s administration and were sanctioned for allegedly interfering in efforts to end the South Sudanese civil war.


A US airstrike on Tuesday killed three al-Shabab fighters, according to US Africa Command.


Four people were beheaded in a suspected al-Shabab attack in Kenya’s Lamu province early Wednesday morning.

Presumably in response to demands by challenger Raila Odinga, Kenya’s elections commission has appointed six new people to oversee the country’s scheduled October 17 redo of its presidential election. Odinga’s people haven’t yet reacted to the appointments, but incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta’s party objected–which, to be sure, could be posturing.


This is probably not good:

A day after police in Rwanda said they had released a former presidential candidate and fierce critic of President Paul Kagame, family members and activists close to her say they are still unable to communicate with her, raising questions about her whereabouts and safety following her arrest.

On Monday, nearly a week after Diane Rwigara and some members of her family were reported missing, Rwanda National Police announced that they had raided the family’s home in Kigali, the country’s capital, and arrested them. The police said on Tuesday it had released Rwigara, her sister, and her mother — authorities have charged them with forgery and tax evasion — and escorted them home after they were questioned.

Kagame’s security forces are reportedly also arresting supporters of imprisoned opposition figure Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2012 for allegedly plotting to overthrow Kagame’s government, and her supporters are accused of doing likewise.



The European Union extended sanctions for another six months against 149 Russian and Ukrainian individuals and 38 entities for their roles in the Ukrainian civil war.


The EU is hedging closer to formally accusing the Polish government of threatening the rule of law in Poland. The right-wing government in Warsaw has passed laws dealing with media and the judiciary that have raised concerns in the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm. There’s not terribly much that Brussels can do to punish Poland if it chooses to go down that road, though, because at a minimum fellow EU member Hungary will be able to block any punitive measures.


The European Court of Justice on Wednesday rejected claims by Hungary and Slovakia that they should not have to abide by EU refugee quotas. The EU, with two-thirds of its members voting in favor, approved a plan in 2015 to distribute tens of thousands of refugees out of Greece and Italy and into the other EU member states, but several nations, including these two, the Czech Republic, and Poland, have rejected the plan. The Slovakian government says it will abide by the ruling, but the other three states seem to be varying degrees of defiant, which opens them up to potential penalties from Brussels.


Embattled ex-finance minister and possible future prime minister Andrej Babiš will face fraud charges after the Czech parliament voted Wednesday to strip him of his legislative immunity. Babiš himself supported the measure, at least publicly, saying he wanted the chance to clear his name, but unless the investigation goes unrealistically quickly this is likely to be hanging over his head when his ANO party contests the parliamentary election next month.


Yesterday and today marked the 45th anniversary of the terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics that ended with 11 Israeli athletes killed by their Palestinian attackers. Today, Germany unveiled a memorial to those victims in the Olympic Park in Munich.


Catalonia’s legislature voted Wednesday to hold an independence referendum on October 1. The vote will now immediately be challenged in court by the Spanish government, and precedent suggests that the pro-independence forces are going to have a tough time succeeding there.

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