Asia/Africa update: June 5 2018

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Two ISIS suicide attackers killed three Pakistani police officers on Tuesday in Mastung, a town in Baluchistan province.

The Diplomat has more on Sunday’s attack against a meeting of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement in South Waziristan. The attackers were reportedly part of the “peace committee,” a euphemism that the Pakistani security establishment uses to describe Taliban forces (mostly Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani Network) who work with the Pakistanis rather than against them. They view the PTM as a threat to their status among the Pashtun in Waziristan.


The Fletcher School’s Thomas Cavanna looks at what China’s Belt and Road Initiative means for US interests in Eurasia:

The nascent Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) illustrates the transformative geopolitical implications of China’s rise. Despite its changing contours and the fact that it partly recycles preexisting plans, this series of major infrastructure and development projects designed to connect Eurasian regions together is a coherent enterprise of unprecedented scale: $4 trillion of promised investments in 65 countries representing 70 percent of the world’s population, 55 percent of its GNP, and 75 percent of its energy reserves. The BRI aims to stabilize China’s western peripheries, rekindle its economy, propel non-Western international economic institutions, gain influence in other countries, and diversify trade suppliers/routes while circumventing the U.S. pivot to Asia.

Of course, the BRI’s prospects of success are subject to many unknowns, including the possibility of foreign resistance, China’s domestic economic travails, political turbulence, aging population, and environmental problems. On the other hand, the U.S. still possesses enormous assets to maintain its predominance, including military primacy, multiple alliances, powerful Western-led international organizations, and an unmatched soft power.

US-Chinese relations are in a rocky patch, despite Donald Trump’s feelings of comity toward Xi Jinping, over a wide range of issues from trade to Taiwanese autonomy. One of those issues is the South China Sea, where tensions between China and the Philippines have risen so much in recent days that the Vietnamese government is calling for calm. The US may have exacerbated those tensions on Monday by flying two B-52 bombers very near the disputed Scarborough Shoal in what the Pentagon termed a “routine training mission.”


The June 12 Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un summit will take place on Singapore’s Sentosa Island. In case you were wondering. Trump is downplaying the chances of any agreement around North Korea’s nuclear program emerging from the summit, but he has started talking about the possibility of a treaty to end the Korean War. It’s unclear whether Trump would consider a treaty as a concession that North Korea needs to earn or a diplomatic achievement in its own right. One would think that South Korean President Moon Jae-in would have to be in Singapore for that to happen, but as far as I know he hasn’t yet been invited. Maybe Trump doesn’t want to share the spotlight.

One interesting sidelight to the North Korea summit is that, ever since his talk about the “Libya model” pissed Pyongyang off enough to jeopardize the whole thing, John Bolton has apparently been removed from Trump’s North Korean team. Bolton’s comments also apparently angered Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who remains Trump’s point man on North Korea and is the one pushing to keep Bolton out of the picture. He’s been aided in that by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who seems to have lost most of his influence with Trump but has aligned with Pompeo in this case. Bolton does not, at least according to CNN, appear to be wearing out his welcome with Trump overall.



Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is considering a third term in office even though the constitution says that’s really not allowed. Eh, technicalities. Alex Thurston at the Sahel Blog says that Mauritanian religious scholars are getting in on the debate over a possible third term, and they’re jumping in on three sides: pro, con, and “we should stay out of this.”


Three suicide attackers, likely Boko Haram, struck near a mosque in the city of Diffa late Monday night, killing at least six people. At least 37 people were wounded, some quite seriously so the death toll could rise.


Nigerian lawmakers may have threatened to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday when they demanded that he fix the country’s security situation in a series of resolutions:

Security agencies must “curtail the sustained killings of Nigerians across the country and protect life and properties of Nigerians as this is the primary duty of any responsible government,” they said in one of the 12 resolutions.

Lawmakers also called for an end to the “systematic harassment and humiliation by the executive of perceived political opponents.”

“The National Assembly will not hesitate to evoke its constitutional powers if nothing is done to address the above resolutions passed today,” concluded lawmakers, who have the power to impeach the president.

Buhari and the Nigerian parliament don’t get along very well, in case you were wondering.


The Ethiopian government said on Tuesday that it will begin to implement the terms of its peace deal with Eritrea. The one the two countries negotiated in 2000, at the end of their 1998-2000 war. That deal called for international arbitration to settle the status of the disputed village of Badme, which is what caused the war to begin with, but when the arbitrator awarded the village to Eritrea the Ethiopians refused to accept the ruling. Now they say they’re ready to withdraw from the village and let Eritrea have it.

The Ethiopian government also said on Tuesday that it is opening up the country’s highly state-controlled economy to private investment. A few industries will remain primarily under government control with some private investment, but many others will be opened to the private sector completely.


Two politicians and many of their bodyguards in Somalia’s Hirshabelle state were killed on Tuesday when their caravan was reportedly ambushed by al-Shabab fighters.

According to the International Crisis Group, Somalia’s stability is being damaged by the rivalry between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates:

The bitter rivalries underpinning the crisis among members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have added a dangerous new twist to Somalia’s instability. Competition between the United Arab Emirates (UAE), on the one hand, and Qatar and, by extension, Turkey on the other has aggravated longstanding intra-Somali disputes: between factions in the capital; between Mogadishu and the regions; and between it and the self-declared Republic of Somaliland. Abu Dhabi’s relations with the government of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” have tanked. Farmajo’s government accuses the Emiratis of funding its rivals and stoking opposition, particularly in Somalia’s federal states. Emirati officials deny meddling and accuse Farmajo of falling under Doha’s and Ankara’s sway. All sides need to take a step back. Farmajo’s government should abide by strict neutrality in the intra-GCC spat and seek to reconcile with its Somali rivals. The UAE should pledge to coordinate its aid and commercial interests with Mogadishu. Talks between the Somali and UAE governments are a priority.


Mozambique’s version of al-Shabab (no relation as far as anyone can tell, apart from the name) killed seven people and burned over 160 homes on Tuesday in an attack on the village of Naude in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. The rise of this new jihadi presence could hinder Mozambique’s hopes of cashing in on its recently discovered and apparently quite massive offshore gas reserves.

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