World update: November 9 2017



One man was killed and two others injured by a suicide bomber in Balkh province on Thursday. The dead man was Abdul Ghani, described as a former militant turned businessman. Meanwhile, the UN says it believes at least 10 civilians were killed in an American airstrike in Kunduz province on Saturday, which is considerably less than the dozens reported by local witnesses but substantially more than the zero the US is claiming.

Unless and until NATO increases its troop presence in Afghanistan, Donald Trump’s “new” strategy for the war there is badly undermanned at only about 80 percent strength. NATO Commander General Curtis Scaparrotti told reporters on Thursday that the other members of the alliance “have to make hard choices,” like the choice about whether or not to throw more lives into a 16 year clusterfuck that at this point barely even serves any American interest, let alone the interests of any other country. NATO’s training component of the Afghan mission hasn’t been fully staffed for years, so this is not exactly a stunning new development.


I highly recommend this summary from The Diplomat of South Asia’s four different ongoing jihad campaigns and their aims:

In South Asia, a tussle is underway between Islamic State (ISIS) and like-minded groups, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, which is currently based in Afghanistan), the Afghan Taliban, and al-Qaeda. The jihadi groups seek to establish one of two major competing Islamist political orders – the “Caliphate political order” or the “Amir-ul-Momineen political order.” Collectively, these groups have launched four different jihads with the goal of creating either “Islamic State Khorasan Province,” the “Islamic State of Khorasan,” or the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan or Waziristan.”

ISIS is the only group committed to the caliphal model, and the “Amir-ul-Momineen” model refers to the leader of the Afghan Taliban, so you know where they stand. It’s less clear how the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent see things.


Three people, including a senior Pakistani police official, were killed Thursday in a bombing in Balochistan.


At the Monkey Cage, Colgate University’s Nadine Murshid examines why, of all of Myanmar’s many restive/violent minorities, it’s the Rohingya who have been particularly singled out for ethnic cleansing:

But that leaves us with the question: Why only the Rohingya? Burma, also known as Myanmar, has other hated ethnic groups. Since the country first gained independence from the British in 1948, its government has been fighting the Karen, the Karenni, the Kachin, the Shan and the Mon. Those ethnic groups have had armed militias for decades. The Rohingya only recently spawned a small armed group — and most Rohingya disapprove of their methods.


So why are the Rohingya being so brutally singled out? The answer lies in Burma’s peculiarly stratified hierarchy of citizenship.

Basically, even those other minorities have bought into government propaganda that the Rohingya are all illegal migrants from Bangladesh rather than an indigenous people. This leaves the Rohingya isolated and vulnerable to higher levels of government violence.


Papuan separatists have reportedly taken control of the villages of Kimbeli and Banti in eastern Papua province. Their target may be an American-owned gold and copper mine in the area, which is a source of ongoing tension because of the environmental damage it causes and the very little degree to which its presence offers the locals any economic benefit.


Chinese media is apparently thrilled with how President Trump’s visit went this week. And why not? When he wasn’t politely refusing to say in Beijing all the terrible things he says about China when he’s in America, he was busy falling for Xi’s lavish welcome and over-the-top treatment, otherwise known as the “full Riyadh.” Xi tried to convince Trump that China is doing all it can to rein in North Korea, which will probably buy him another few months before Trump starts tweeting about that issue again. And as he was leaving Beijing, Trump said that he believes if the US and China work together, “we can solve almost all” of the world’s problems. Man, he is so easily manipulated.


Negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership are continuing without American involvement on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Corporation summit in Vietnam, but there seems to be some disagreement between Japan and Canada as to how much progress they’re making–Tokyo says the 11 remaining members of the pact have agreed “in principle” on a way forward, but Ottawa says they’ve done no such thing.



An American airstrike in Somalia’s Bay Region, west of Mogadishu, reportedly killed “several” al-Shabab militants on Thursday.


The International Criminal Court announced on Thursday that it will open an investigation into crimes against humanity committed in Burundi while the country was an ICC member. Pierre Nkurunziza pulled Burundi out of the ICC a couple of weeks ago, ostensibly over the court’s (alleged) anti-Africa bias, but really in an effort to avoid exactly what happened today. But the court says it approved the investigation two days before Burundi withdrew, so…oops. There’s obviously a decent chance its approval was backdated, but with no way to prove it, Burundi doesn’t have much recourse. What it, like many other countries, can do is to wait for the ICC to complete its investigation, file formal charges, and then ignore them. International law, as I often say, is really more a set of suggestions than actual laws.


Robert Mugabe’s decision to dump his former heir apparent, ex-VP Emmerson Mnangagwa, in favor of his wife, Grace Mugabe, could have long term repercussions for Zimbabwean stability. Mnangagwa has a lot of support within the ruling ZANU-PF party and abroad (despite his checkered past from a war crimes perspective)–maybe more than Grace Mugabe would have if it weren’t for her husband. All to say that it’s not at all clear Mugabe’s succession is going to go the way he now seems to want it to go.



Hey, apparently there’s a “cloud of radioactive pollution” parked over Europe at the moment, courtesy of some sort of nuclear accident in either Russia or Kazakhstan. The Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire (IRSN), a French nuclear safety organization, says the cloud, made up of ruthenium 106, is not a threat to anybody’s health.


Trump and Vladimir Putin are likely to meet on Friday on the sidelines of the APEC summit. They may talk Syria, or Iran, or swap lawyer referrals, anything is possible.

Russia makes would-be regional governors go through boot camp. Just a very normal, regular country.



Nicolás Maduro’s government and the Venezuelan opposition are planning to resume negotiations later this month in the Dominican Republic. If things go well, and it’s more than likely that they won’t, the goal would be to lay the groundwork for a free and fair presidential election next year.


As an aside, it is more than apparent to me that I have been burning myself out over the past several days. I’ve been writing these beasts every day, recording podcasts at Patreon every couple of days, doing Chapo, writing for Jacobin and LobeLog, and, well, I’m doing a lot of stuff and getting not a whole lot of sleep. I’m going to keep plugging away, no worries about that, but if I should happen to need a day or two away from things between now and Thanksgiving (when I will definitely be taking a few days away from things), I hope you’ll understand. Thanks for your support!

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