Asia/Africa update: October 30 2017



At least 15 Afghan police officers were killed on Monday in two separate Taliban attacks, one Ghazni province and the other in Zabul. Also on Monday, the Taliban said that Kevin King, an American professor it kidnapped from Kabul University in August 2016, is gravely ill with heart and kidney problems.

Stimson’s Ali Malik explains the deteriorating cohesion of Afghanistan’s ad hoc “unity” government:

U.S. objectives in Afghanistan can only be met when there is an efficient and united Kabul that can adequately defend and provide for its citizens. The current government can best be described as a fractured governing body. Following the departure of former President Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan held its first modern democratic transition of power. This election was fiercely divided along ethnic and tribal lines, with Ashraf Ghani gaining major support from the dominant Pashtun community and rival Abdullah Abdullah gaining support from Afghanistan’s minority groups, which have a strong foothold in the country’s north. The results of the election were contested by Abdullah, who claimed widespread corruption and ballot stuffing.


The previous U.S. administration brokered a political compromise in 2014 that gave a weakened presidency to Ashraf Ghani and created the post of chief executive officer (CEO), which Abdullah currently occupies. This complicated and fragile relationship between the two political leaders continues to be estranged, with internal disagreements and fighting spilling into Afghanistan’s governance. Abdullah and his supporters believe that the agreement brokered gave him an equal role to that of Ghani’s presidency. Ghani and his supporters argue that according to the constitution the role of the president has no equal.

Creating the CEO position made no sense at the time and that problem hasn’t fixed itself. It has no analogue in any other government and might have taken on the trappings of a premiership (Afghanistan’s government does not have a prime minister office), but Ghani wanted no part of that. Abdullah, who lost the election amid a lot of irregularities, had no basis to claim that he should be co-equal to the guy who (allegedly, at least) beat him, and the US simply invented an office to appease Abdullah without actually figuring out how the new arrangement was supposed to work.

Ghani (L) and Abdullah pretending to like each other in 2014 (Wikimedia)
Abdullah, who is half-Pashtun and half-Tajik, has become the avatar of minority frustration with Ghani and the country’s Pashtun plurality, and if his role in the government had been better defined–if Washington had pressured Ghani to give him a genuine role–this unity government could have helped bring Afghanistan together. Instead, Abdullah has thrown in with the leaders of Afghanistan’s biggest minority communities–Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara–to oppose Ghani.


One member of Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps was killed on Monday by a roadside bomb in South Waziristan.


European analyst Richard Ghiasy explains how European countries are approaching China’s One Belt One Road Initiative:

Which individual European countries are receptive toward involvement in the BRI and why?


Countries that have infrastructure deficits, domestic and (sub-)regional connectivity deficits, or pressing unemployment and economic growth challenges have typically been the most welcoming  ̶  this includes Greece, Spain, Italy, Serbia, Portugal, and Hungary. These countries have difficulty securing the financial means for large infrastructure projects domestically and through existing multilateral finance mechanisms, making them very receptive toward BRI involvement.


England has also expressed strong interest, partially driven by anxiety over the economic impact of Brexit, but also over worries of how the BRI may impact global finance over time. The Nordic community has shown little interest so far, partially due to the fact that they are economically developed, well connected, and “tucked away” in a corner of Europe that sees, comparatively, little transit activity. Germany and The Netherlands have shown interest and have commenced engagement, yet at the same time they are evaluating the BRI’s long-term strategic implications at the national and EU level. These are mostly related to economic security impacts, but also impacts on (sub)national and regional security among participating states.


Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen visited Hawaii over the weekend and committed to increasing her country’s military budget by two percent per year. Washington has expressed concern about a military “imbalance” between China and Taiwan, which is inevitable on some level but can be mitigated by increased Taiwanese military spending. And of course a bigger Taiwanese military budget undoubtedly means more Taiwanese purchases of big-ticket American weapons, not that Washington is motivated by that in any way of course.


South Korean scientists are saying that repeated nuclear tests have so weakened the structural integrity of North Korea’s Punggye-ri testing facility that another test could cause it to collapse and send fallout pouring into the atmosphere. So I guess Pyongyang’s threat to conduct an open-air nuclear test isn’t the only thing to be worried about.



At least 15 people, including civilians, were killed in Derna on Monday evening by an airstrike, probably courtesy of Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army which has been more or less besieging Derna since March 2015. UPDATE: Libya’s Government of National Accord in Tripoli is accusing Egypt of conducting the strike. Egypt strongly supports Haftar and the LNA, and also this would not be their first air strike on Derna.

US special forces captured Mustafa al-Imam in Libya on Sunday. He’s suspected of involvement in the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi and is the second person arrested in connection with that attack.


Liberia’s governing Unity Party is joining a couple of other parties in challenging the results of the first round of presidential voting earlier this month. Interestingly, one of the irregularities it’s citing is a meeting that current President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the symbolic head of the Unity Party, held with the national election commission in which they allege she interfered with the electoral process. There are suspicions that Sirleaf supports outsider George Weah, who finished first in the first round, over her own VP and Unity Party candidate Joseph Bokai.


Uhuru Kenyatta’s 98 percent victory in last week’s dubious presidential election was made official on Monday. I’m sure that will satisfy the opposition.


At least 10 people were killed in a suspected Boko Haram attack on the village of Gouderi, in northern Cameroon, late Sunday night.

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