World update: November 10 2017



At least one police officer was killed on Friday by a Taliban (most likely) suicide bomber in Helmand province.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the US allowed ISIS to gain a foothold in Afghanistan:

“In my view under the full presence, surveillance, military, political, intelligence, Daesh [ISIL] has emerged,” he said.


“And for two years the Afghan people came, cried loud about their suffering, of violations. Nothing was done.”

He further accused the Trump administration of using Afghanistan as a testing ground for the BIG-ASS BOMB it dropped on Nangarhar province in April, noting that a day after America dropped it, ISIS captured another district in that province. Karzai also welcomed a potential International Criminal Court investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan during his presidency–Karzai is quite open that many such violations took place, but denies any culpability for them.


As the Sri Lankan government continues to dodge its promises to undertake a serious war crimes investigation into its 1983-2009 civil war, the AP has found evidence relating to some 50 Tamil men who were allegedly sexually assaulted and otherwise tortured by government forces as recently as July. The United Nations says it plans to investigate, and the US Congress may do likewise.


ISIS-aligned militants killed six soldiers on Friday on the southern Philippine island of Basilan. The military is focusing its efforts on Basilan, where a number of Abu Sayyaf fighters remain, now that operations in Marawi are wrapping up.

Rodrigo Duterte says he had murdered someone by the time he was 16 years old:

“When I was a teenager, I had been in and out of jail, rumble here and there,” Mr. Duterte said during a speech to Filipinos in Danang, Vietnam. “At the age of 16, I already killed someone.”


He said he had stabbed the person “just over a look,” and he asked his audience in Vietnam to imagine what he could do as president.


“I won’t let you off the hook” if you mess around with Filipinos, he said. “Never mind about the human rights advocates.”

Duterte’s minders say he was joking. I can see what they mean, that’s hilarious material.


Zhao Leji, the new leader of Xi Jinping’s war on corruption and/or potential rivals, says that the Chinese Communist Party could be “erased by history” if it doesn’t do more to rein in its graft problem.


After a lot of back and forth all day, it seems that the 11 nations still negotiating the TPP managed to cobble together an agreement in principle on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Vietnam. Canada almost upended things when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected a preliminary agreement to which his own trade minister had agreed, but that seems not to have been a fatal blow. Donald Trump, meanwhile, reiterated that the US would not be rejoining the trade pact, then spent his time trying and failing to work out bilateral trade agreements with many of its member states.



Residents of Sirte say they’re concerned that ISIS is going to retake the city unless the economic and security situations there are improved. ISIS has been active in the area and it’s likely that they left cells behind when they fled last year. Most of Sirte’s problem can be chalked up to geography–it sits on the frontier between territory controlled by Tripoli and territory controlled by Tobruk, so nobody has any particular reason to invest in rebuilding and security it.


Tunisia has extended its state of emergency for another three months. It’s been in place since 2015, so it might be time to stop pretending it’s ever going to be allowed to expire.


Two witnesses say that the body of La David Johnson, one of the four American soldiers killed in Niger last month, was found bound and with a severe head wound possibly from a gunshot. If true, then it means he was certainly taken captive during the October 4 firefight, and that could explain why his body wasn’t recovered for two days after the attack.


The UN says that the South Sudanese government is deliberately denying food aid to civilians as part of its war effort. In particular, Juba has reportedly been denying aid to the city of Wau and its surrounding Bahr el Ghazal region.


Burundi’s government has already said it will not cooperate with an International Criminal Court investigation, which makes sense given that it would be the target of that investigation. Realistically there’s probably not much the ICC can do without Burundian cooperation.



Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin decided to forego a meeting on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Vietnam on Friday. They did shake hands, so…cool?

The Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety believes that the source of the ruthenium-106 cloud over Europe can be traced to the area between the Volga River and the Ural Mountains. That means it would have been some kind of Russian facility that suffered the accident that caused the cloud to form. They reiterated that the cloud poses no health risks.


The Belgian government may be about to seize control of the Great Mosque of Brussels:

Now the Parliament wants the country’s leaders to take over the sprawling complex that is just steps from the gleaming core of the European Union. It is the latest attempt to tighten security after radicalized Belgians emerged at the heart of terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels in the last three years.


The sudden move against the mosque underscores the challenge for Western European leaders seeking to embrace what they call a “European Islam” that endorses pluralistic values. For too long, many officials say, they have stood by as imams preaching the ultraconservative interpretation of Islam favored by clerics in Saudi Arabia and Qatar have worked among their populations, encouraging the frustrated descendants of North African immigrants to wall themselves off from mainstream society.

This obviously raises some incredibly problematic religious freedom issues. While I don’t think many would argue that the state shouldn’t be able to intervene when it’s clear that a house of worship is being used to foment violence, where the line gets drawn is a pretty big deal. The Grand Mosque is Saudi-financed and does preach Wahhabism. It’s undeniably connected to several people who have carried out attacks in Belgium and France in recent years. But were those people radicalized there? Or did that happen online or via some other mechanism? Even if they weren’t radicalized in the mosque, did preaching they heard there leave them susceptible to being radicalized through other means? And would that justify the state intervening?



Part of Robert Mueller’s investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his son, Fredo Michael Flynn Junior, involves his work on behalf of the Turkish government, including whether or not Flynn offered to be Ankara’s Man in the White House. Among the sordid details of Flynn’s work with Turkey is a scheme he apparently discussed with Ankara to nab Fethullah Gülen and another to secure the release of gold trader Reza Zarrab, currently awaiting trial on charges that he tried to evade sanctions against Iran.

Finally, BuzzFeed chronicles President Deals’ total failure–though not for lack of trying–to score any significant bilateral trade agreements during his nearly-completed Asia tour:

From Japan to South Korea to China to Vietnam, the president extended his offer to partner with the United States on a “fair and equal basis” outside of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multi-nation accord that Trump withdrew from on his first full day in office.


“I will make bilateral trade agreements with any Indo-Pacific nation that wants to be our partner and that will abide by the principles of fair and reciprocal trade,” Trump told a gathering of Asia-Pacific powers in Vietnam on Friday.


But in every country Trump visited, none of the leaders entered trade negotiations or offered significant concessions to the former real estate magnate and Art of the Deal author.


In Tokyo, no sooner did Trump’s plane leave the tarmac than the finance minister declared that “We won’t do an FTA,” Taro Aso said, using the acronym for free trade agreement.


In Beijing, even the president’s own top diplomat conceded that the talks between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping achieved little.

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