Asia/Africa update: November 7-8 2017



Gunmen affiliated with ISIS attacked the Shamshad TV station in Kabul on Tuesday, killing at least one person and triggering a three hour battle with Afghan police. The station, to its credit, went back on the air within minutes after police had secured the building.


Indian forces pursuing Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Maulana Masood Azhar killed his nephew, Talha Rasheed, along with two other JeM fighters in a battle in Kashmir’s Pulwama region on Monday.


Hey, NBD, but while we’re all worried about Iran and North Korea testing new missiles, India just tested a nuclear-capable cruise missile on Tuesday. Just thought I’d mention that.


Myanmar’s government has warned that a Monday statement from the UN Security Council demanding that it stop brutalizing the Rohingya is going to force it to keep brutalizing the Rohingya. Specifically, Myanmar says the UN’s interference risks wrecking talks with Bangladesh about repatriating the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees there back to Myanmar. How might it do that, you ask? They didn’t say. Serial human rights violators say that kind of shit all the time and they never explain what they mean, because there really is no explanation.


Rodrigo Duterte is going to tell Donald Trump to “lay off” if Trump brings up human rights during his visit to the Philippines at the end of his Asia trip. Somehow I don’t think the subject is going to come up.


Speaking of Trump’s Asia tour, he’s in China now receiving the sickeningly full red carpet treatment from Xi Jinping. Trump has been leaning on Beijing to do more about North Korea and to be nicer to the US on trade, and as the Saudis have shown the easiest way to get Trump on your side is to spend a few days really kissing his ass.

The Diplomat‘s Charlotte Gao explains one way in which Xi is dramatically undermining the reforms that Deng Xiaoping instituted in the 1970s:

The notion of separation between Party and government was put forward by Deng Xiaoping, when he resumed political power after Mao’s death in the late 1970s.


Under Deng’s support, the CCP launched political reform after the 13th Party Congress in 1987, which has been regarded as one of the most important congresses in the CCP’s history.  The 13th Party Congress approved the notion that “the separation of party and government is the top priority of the political reform.”


However, since Xi came into office, some CCP theorists claimed that Deng’s thought on “the separation of Party and government” has been misinterpreted by many people, and that Deng’s call for separation didn’t mean that the leadership of the Party can be undermined.


Whatever Deng’s original idea really was, Wang’s latest article once again indicated that the CCP is determined to get rid of the notion totally.

Also at The Diplomat, analyst Philip Dubow argues that China’s One Belt One Road initiative has had and will continue to have a couple of unwanted consequences. First, by connecting Eurasia more closely without substantially increasing security it will make trafficking–in opiates, mostly–easier, and second, its major infrastructure projects will–and already have, in Pakistan–become prime targets for terrorists.


Trump’s visit to South Korea on Tuesday dealt primarily with North Korea, and he delivered a speech that alternated between carrot and stick:

Speaking on North Korea’s doorstep during a visit to Seoul, Trump said that while “we hope to God” not to have to resort to the use of full U.S. military might, he was ready to do whatever was necessary to prevent the “North Korean dictator” from threatening millions of lives.


“We cannot allow North Korea to threaten all that we have built,” Trump said after talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has supported diplomatic outreach to Pyongyang.


But at times taking a more measured, less confrontational tone, Trump also urged North Korea to “do the right thing” and added that: “I do see some movement,” though he declined to elaborate.


While in Japan earlier this week, Trump and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe signed several deals intended to counter the One Belt One Road initiative:

According to a read-out from the White House, during Trump’s visit, the United States and Japan launched several initiatives designed to promote an alternative to Chinese infrastructure development in the Asia-Pacific (although China was never directly mentioned). First, two agreements were signed between Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. government’s development finance agency, and Japanese partners “to offer high-quality United States-Japan infrastructure investment alternatives in the Indo-Pacific region.”


In its own press release, OPIC said its memoranda of understanding with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI) underscored a shared “commitment to tackling development challenges and bolstering investment in infrastructure, energy and other critical sectors throughout Asia and the Indo Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa.” The MOUs will allow the U.S. and Japanese finance institutions to cooperate and coordinate on “projects that meet policy objectives” in those regions – not coincidentally, also major areas of interest for the BRI.

The expectation is that the US and Japan will eventually bring India in on this effort as well.



Reuters looks at some of the challenges facing the new G5 Sahel Force–perhaps none more significant than how the new force will interact with the Algerian government:

Money, logistical support and local opposition aside, Dacko said he was concerned about the relationship with the continent’s biggest country, Algeria, with which the G5 nations share a collective border roughly 2,500 km (1,500 miles) long.


Islamist militant groups emerged in Algeria in the early 1990s and then spread beyond its borders. The country’s constitution prohibits foreign military intervention but analysts say its collaboration is essential because of its intelligence networks’ intimate knowledge of regional militants.


Dacko, however, said there was no process as yet to formalize security cooperation between the G5 and the North Africa country.

It’s no exaggeration to say that virtually every group the G5 is targeting (save potentially Boko Haram, which it’s not clear the G5 will go after) can trace its roots back to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has its roots in Algeria. But the G5’s dependence on French assistance is probably not going to win it any friends in Algiers.


Liberian President Ellen Johnston Sirleaf says that her country’s democracy is “under assault” as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision to indefinitely postpone the second round of Liberia’s presidential election pending an investigation into electoral fraud charges.


ISIS’s small faction in northeastern Somalia’s Puntland region isn’t quite as small as it was a year ago, having grown from dozens of fighters in 2016 to an estimated 200 now, all under the command of former al-Shabab leader Abdul Qadir Mumin.


The DRC’s opposition is rejecting the government’s proposal to hold new elections in December 2018. Something about how those elections were supposed to be held last year and then were rescheduled for this year and now Joseph Kabila wants everybody to put them off yet again, I guess? Seems petty to me. I mean, it’s not like Kabila is never going to hold the elections, so can’t we all just be satisfied with that?


Sacked former Zimbabwean Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has reportedly fled the country in fear for his life, but promised in a statement that he will return to “lead” it. President Robert Mugabe has accused Mnangagwa of practicing “witchcraft,” asking traditional healers to predict when Mugabe is going to die (LOL, as if). Several other cabinet members are likely to be sacked, with a special focus on any Mnangagwa loyalists and anyone who opposes Grace Mugabe’s eventual succession.

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