Asia/Africa update: November 4-5 2017



US airstrikes in Kunduz province on Saturday reportedly killed “scores” of Afghan civilians:

The airstrikes in Kunduz on Friday night targeted three villages in Chardara, a district west of the provincial capital where Taliban fighters have long maintained a strong presence.


Afghan security forces prevented access to the bomb sites in Essa Khil, Qatl-e Aam and Uzbek Bazaar, barring relatives from picking up bodies and hindering a precise assessment of the toll. Afghan forces claimed no civilians had been killed in the strikes.


A provincial council member, Khosh Mohammad Nasratyar, estimated that around 55 civilians had been killed while an Afghan aid worker in the area, who asked not to be named, said at least 40 had been killed, including multiple women and children. The New York Times, citing residents and officials in the area, said at least 13 were dead.

American forces have made a habit of bombing civilian targets in Kunduz over the years, most famously a Doctors Without Borders hospital in a 2015 strike that amazingly didn’t result in some sort of war crimes prosecution. I can’t for the life of me figure out why some residents of that province might support the Taliban and give it safe harbor.


Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told members of the Cambodian National Rescue Party on Saturday to abandon ship and leave their party before his government dissolves it. The CNRP is on the chopping block because its leader, Kem Sokha, was arrested several weeks ago on questionable treason charges, and anyone left in the party if/when it’s disbanded would be legally barred from Cambodian politics for up to five years.


The Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) last week that “the only way to ‘locate and destroy – with complete certainty – all components of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs’ is through a ground invasion.” A ground invasion of North Korea would, of course, be a disaster, involving a certain North Korean bombardment of Seoul and Tokyo that could well include the use of nuclear weapons. Anybody telling you North Korea could be handled entirely via airstrikes is selling something, and it’s not something good.


America’s very smart, normal president is in Japan at the moment, on the first leg of his big Asia trip. He’s looking to do some deals and talk about North Korea, and he, well, I don’t even know how to characterize this:

U.S. President Donald Trump has said Japan should have shot down the North Korean missiles that flew over the country before landing in the Pacific Ocean earlier this year, diplomatic sources have said, despite the difficulties and potential ramifications of doing so.


The revelation came ahead of Trump’s arrival in Japan on Sunday at the start of his five-nation trip to Asia. Threats from North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development programs were set to be high on the agenda in his talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday.


Trump questioned Japan’s decision not to shoot down the missiles when he met or spoke by phone with leaders from Southeast Asian countries over recent months to discuss how to respond to the threats from North Korea, the sources said.


The U.S. president said he could not understand why a country of samurai warriors did not shoot down the missiles, the sources said.

Sometimes he really does leave you speechless.



South Sudanese President Salva Kiir visited Sudan last week so that he and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir could hash out some of the many tensions the two countries still have between them. It, ah, doesn’t seem to have gone very well:

In a face-to-face confrontation with his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum on Thursday, president of South Sudan Salva Kiir Myardit accused Sudan of fueling the South Sudan civil war, providing weapons that destabilised the new-born state and harboring the followers of the fugitive South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar.


Tensions between the two countries have been high since South Sudan broken away from Sudan following a 2011 referendum that ended the longest civil war in Africa.


A range of issues are still pending between the two countries including support for rebel groups, border demarcation, the contested Abyei region and the oil transit fees South Sudan pays to Khartoum for oil passage.


Sudan has accused South Sudan of supporting the rebels fighting the government in the Darfur, South Kordofana and Blue Nile regions, while Juba has claimed that Khartoum is sheltering the rebels headed by Riek Machar.


The head of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Edgar Clark, issued a public statement on Sunday calling on the Niger Delta Avengers to maintain their ceasefire while Delta leaders continue to negotiate with the Nigerian government over more equitable distribution of the country’s oil wealth. The NDA announced an end to their ceasefire a few days ago, but they haven’t yet carried out any new attacks.


The US is telling non-essential employees of its Somali mission to leave Mogadishu because of “specific threat information” that apparently has to do with the city’s international airport.


Seven people (two of them civilians) were killed on Sunday in fighting in the eastern DRC city of Bukavu. Government forces moved in to disarm Colonel Abbas Kayonga, who had been canned on Thursday, and he and his loyalists put up a fight before eventually surrendering.

The DRC’s electoral commission says that it will hold a presidential election on December 23 of next year, a mere two years late. The commission had previously insisted that it couldn’t possibly conduct an election before April 2019, so this is definitely progress. As to whether Joseph Kabila will agree not to stand in the election, seeing as how his second and final term was up last year, that remains to be seen.


Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party will meet next month, at which time it will adopt a new requirement that one of Mugabe’s two vice-presidents must be a woman. Naturally, he’s expected to then name his wife, Grace, to the job. Grace Mugabe is positioning herself as her husband’s successor ahead of his current first VP, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and being named as one of Robert’s VPs would obviously be a big boost for her.

A US national named Martha O’Donovan is facing trial in Zimbabwe on charges that she attempted to subvert the government by, well, criticizing Robert Mugabe in a tweet. Seems totally reasonable.

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