Asia/Africa update: December 8 2017



Russia’s neighbors, even the ones that have good relations with Moscow, are quietly adopting new military doctrines in response to Russian actions in Ukraine:

Without much ado, Kazakhstan adopted a new military doctrine in September, replacing a 2011 document that had become dated. The new document states that Kazakhstan does not have enemies. Yet, Astana seems alarmed enough by Russia’s aggressive actions toward Ukraine since 2014 to have produced a doctrine that is an obvious reaction to Moscow’s hybrid warfare tactics, which include cyber-disruption and propaganda.


Kazakhstan is not alone in sensing that it now lives in a rapidly changing security environment that demands new policies. Belarus, another neighbor of Russia, introduced a new military doctrine in July 2016. But while Belarus made explicit that it is reacting to Ukraine’s fight against Russian-backed separatists and Moscow’s use of hybrid warfare, Kazakhstani authorities have not commented publicly on changes to their military doctrine.

Meanwhile, a trade dispute between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan that erupted in October exposed the fact that the Eurasian Economic Union, Vladimir Putin’s answer to a question nobody asked the European Union, isn’t really much of A Thing. The EEU barely got involved in the conflict between two of its member states, mostly because it doesn’t really have any established mechanisms for getting involved in such things. Which makes one wonder why it exists at all, but I digress.


Some enterprising soul has leaked mercenary whisperer Erik Prince’s plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan, and forgive me, but holy shit:

One surprising element is the commercial promise Prince envisions: that the US will get access to Afghanistan’s rich deposits of minerals such as lithium, used in batteries; uranium; magnesite; and “rare earth elements,” critical metals used in high technology from defense to electronics. One slide estimates the value of mineral deposits in Helmand province alone at $1 trillion.


The presentation makes it plain that Prince intends to fund the effort through these rich deposits. His plan, one slide says, is “a strategic mineral resource extraction funded effort that breaks the negative security economic cycle.” The slides also say that mining could provide jobs to Afghans.

This isn’t a plan to win the war, it’s a plan to plunder Afghanistan of whatever wealth it has and then bug out. “East India Company” indeed. What I think I appreciate most about this is that Prince seems to think he’s the first person to come up with the idea of extracting Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, as if that weren’t effectively driving a significant portion of the conflict at this point. If it were as easy as writing a PowerPoint slide, I suspect America would already be doing it.


The United Nations is cautioning that there must be guarantees of peace and stability in place before Rohingya refugees can be repatriated under international law. Myanmar’s government wants to begin repatriation in the next two months, and Bangladesh is obviously eager to get started, but so far there doesn’t seem to have been much thought given to the conditions that will be facing those refugees when they return.


China’s plan to ban the burning of coal this winter for environmental purposes lasted all the way until two weeks before the technical start of winter. Way to go guys! Millions of people in northern China apparently failed to switch from coal to another heating fuel, though that might not have helped because the ones who did switch have created a gas shortage.  So Beijing is allowing the use of coal in order to keep people from freezing. Maybe next year, I guess. Congrats to the residents of Beijing on the extra smog.



The European Union and the International Organization for Migration will be working over the next several days to repatriate roughly 3850 West Africa migrants who have been stranded in Libya. This is related to an African Union effort to repatriate 20,000 migrants from all over the continent over the next six weeks. Hundreds of thousands of migrants are believed to be stuck in makeshift detention camps throughout Libya, their situation only recently coming into prominence thanks to a CNN report on slave markets in northern Libya.


The New York Times has a horrifying report on women who have escaped Boko Haram only to find themselves facing abuse from Nigerian soldiers who are supposed to be protecting them:

The camp was supposed to be a refuge. Falmata’s life had been stolen by war ever since the sixth grade, when she was abducted from her home and raped repeatedly by Boko Haram’s fighters for the next three years.


She finally escaped last spring, slipping into the bush while her captors slept. Fourteen years old and alone, she made it to a camp for victims of the war, and had just settled in for the night when she heard footsteps outside her tent. A security officer’s voice instructed her to come out. Frightened, she obeyed.


He took her to his quarters, she said, and raped her.


Hours later, after she had returned to her tent, another officer arrived, she said. He raped her, too.


At least 45 people have been killed since Wednesday in South Sudan’s Western Lakes province, in clashes between ethnic Ruop and Pakam fighters. That number can be expected to go up and indeed some estimates already put the death toll at more than 50.


At least 15 United Nations peacekeepers and five Congolese soldiers were killed on Friday when their base in eastern DRC was attacked by fighters believed to be members of the Allied Democratic Forces, a Uganda-based Islamist group (though it can be hard to tell who’s who in the eastern DRC).


Malawians are planning public demonstrations on Wednesday to demand changes to the country’s electoral law at a time when polling suggests that freedom of speech is under attack there. There’s a movement to change the threshold for a presidential election from a simple plurality to a strict majority, which would force candidates to build broader voting bases and could help bring Malawian society together. But research from Afrobarometer shows that, for the first time since it began polling Malawi in the early 2000s, a majority of Malawians now believe they have to often or always watch what they say when it comes to politics. In particular, they do not feel comfortable criticizing the military, President Peter Mutharika, or the police.

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