World update: July 12 2018



A likely Taliban attack on a military post in Kunduz province killed at least 15 Afghan soldiers on Thursday, though some estimates had the toll as high as 30. A separate likely Taliban attack on a police checkpoint in Farah province left four police officers dead. Additionally, a US service member died of wounds suffered in a combat operation in eastern Afghanistan.


Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will return to Pakistan on Friday, where he will presumably be carted off to prison to serve the 10 year sentence he received in absentia on corruption charges. His return is a direct challenge to the Pakistan military, which Sharif blames for engineering his conviction. He’s hoping to serve as a rallying point for his Pakistani Muslim League-Nawaz party heading into the country’s general election later this month. The PML-N has been accusing Pakistani police of targeting and arresting its members in the run up to the election.


The agreement that Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un signed after their June 12 summit in Singapore consisted of four main commitments: to improve US-North Korean relations, to work toward a full peace deal between North and South Korea, to work toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, and to recover and repatriate US POW/MIA remains from the Korean War. So far there’s been no progress on a peace deal and North Korea has done nothing that could be considered denuclearizing, but at least the two sides are definitely working on the POW/MIA issu-

North Korean officials didn’t show up for a planned meeting with U.S. counterparts to discuss returning the remains of American war dead, South Korean media reported, in the latest sign of tensions between the two sides.

South Korean officials later said the meeting would be rescheduled for July 15, but that was after U.S. negotiators arrived Thursday at the militarized border between the two Koreas and were kept waiting, the Yonhap News Agency reported, citing diplomatic officials it didn’t identify.

Ah, huh. OK then. OK, but at least the two countries aren’t fighting over sanctions enforcement while they aim to make progress on those commitme-

The United States has asked the United Nations Security Council to order an immediate halt to all deliveries of refined oil products to North Korea after finding that Pyongyang had violated restrictions on those imports.

A confidential US report sent to UN Security Council and seen by AFP news agency, estimated that at least 759,793 barrels of oil products had been delivered to North Korea between January 1 and May 30, well above the annual quota set at 500,000 barrels.

Yikes. Well, anyway, Donald Trump says everything is great between the US and North Korea on account of Kim sent him a nice letter last week. So that’s good.



The Sudanese government has extended its ceasefire with rebels in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, which has been in place since 2015, through the end of the year.


The South Sudanese parliament has extended President Salva Kiir’s term until 2021, a move that is likely to anger rebel leaders at a time when Kiir’s government has been trying to negotiate another settlement in the country’s long-running civil war. Kiir has already had his term extended once, to this year, when South Sudan should have held a general election back in 2015. The United Nations Security Council will vote on Friday on imposing an arms embargo against South Sudan. The measure is likely but not certain to pass.


The Atlantic Council’s Bronwyn Bruton argues that the rapprochement between Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is in part fueled by their common antipathy toward Ethiopia’s Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF):

Though it governed behind the fig leaf of a larger ruling coalition, the TPLF and the tiny ethnic minority it represents have wielded unlimited power in Ethiopia for the past two decades. The party has used its power to obliterate civil society, the press, religious freedoms, and all forms of political opposition.

By early this year, the TPLF’s stranglehold on power had brought Ethiopia to the verge of collapse, as larger ethnic groups, led by the Oromo and Amhara, blocked roads into Addis Ababa in protest. To avert a showdown — which would have taken the form of a catastrophic food and fuel shortage in the capital — the ruling coalition’s government was forced to oust its prime minister, release thousands of political prisoners, and consent to the appointment of Abiy, an Oromo leader, as the new head of state. Abiy has proved more of a firebrand than expected and has been moving quickly to generate a political following and dismantle the TPLF’s grip on power.

Isaias also revealed his worries about the TPLF when he announced his intention to send a peace delegation to Addis Ababa in a June 20 speech: While he had one or two nice words for the changes occurring in Ethiopia, he spoke mainly of “the TPLF’s toxic and malignant legacy,” and his belief that the TPLF “vultures,” stunned by the loss of their power, would now work to “impede positive change” — both in the bilateral relationship and inside Ethiopia.

Isaias and the TPLF fought as close allies during the liberation struggle against the communist Derg, and — like approximately half of all Eritreans — he is ethnically Tigrayan himself. But the violent war, followed by Ethiopia’s long occupation of the Eritrean border, has destroyed all solidarity between the sides. Because of the TPLF’s intransigence, Eritrea has effectively been in a state of emergency since 1998. That state of affairs has helped fuel a migration crisis, as thousands of youth have fled the country for Europe.



Donald Trump’s demands that NATO members increase their defense spending and his veiled threats to either withdraw from the alliance or at least repudiate its common defense principle (effectively the same thing) forced NATO leaders into an emergency session on Thursday. Trump emerged from that session crowing about a big victory:

He said they had agreed to reach the Nato target of spending 2% of GDP on defence faster than previously planned, and he claimed financial commitments would increase beyond that in the future.

“I can you tell you that Nato now is a really a fine-tuned machine. People are paying money that they never paid before. They’re happy to do it. And the United States is being treated much more fairly,” he said.

Several other NATO leaders later said they’d made no promises to up their defense spending in the meeting. At this point a pattern is emerging: Trump causes an international crisis, Trump does something with a flourish that looks like it’s addressing the crisis but actually accomplishes little or nothing, then Trump takes credit for solving the crisis. The crisis that he created. Even though he didn’t solve it. Hey, as long as it keep him from nuking anybody I say we’re all ahead of the game here.


The Ukrainian government is expanding the authority of its anti-corruption court in an effort to attract International Monetary Fund aid. Kiev hoped that just setting the court up, finally, would be enough to get the IMF to toss it some cash, but apparently the fund is looking for a more robust anti-corruption effort.


One thing Trump has accomplished is he’s made US soldiers in Germany unwelcome. A plurality of Germans–42 percent–now want US forces out of their country. Frankly I’m not sure I see a downside here although the juxtaposition between Trump’s “America First” isolationism and his clear feeling that the rest of the world should be groveling before us is sometimes pretty jarring.


Trump’s next stop after the NATO meeting in Brussels was London, where he insists he’s very popular. He is not, in case you were wondering. His tour de dipshit continued apace, as he gave a newspaper interview in which he criticized Theresa May’s Brexit plan and said it would jeopardize any future US trade deal with the UK, then said that ousted foreign secretary and Albino from The Princess Bride cosplayer Boris Johnson “would be a great prime minister.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later told reporters that Trump “likes and respects Prime Minister May very much.” She must be so happy to hear it.

While Trump was criticizing May’s Brexit plan from one end, European Union negotiator Michel Barnier was criticizing it from the other. Despite May agreeing in her latest proposal to maintain EU rules on the trade in goods, Barnier maintains that British refusal to abide by the European Court of Justice and to allow for the continued free movement of people means that the best the UK can get from the EU is a standard free trade agreement.



The Mexican government is not interested in processing asylum seekers heading to the US on Mexican soil under a “safe third party agreement.” The Trump administration has reportedly offered financial incentives to Mexico to enter into such an agreement, which would allow compassionate US border officials to tell people fleeing violence and desperate poverty back home to go fuck themselves right at the border, instead of letting them in the country and tossing their kids into an internment camp and only then telling them to go fuck themselves.


Protesters in Haiti are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant:


The Air Force is gearing up to run a side-by-side test of the F-35 and A-10 aircraft in close air support situations. The A-10 has ably filled that role for decades but the Air Force wants to streamline its fleet and justify its epic boondoggle by having the F-35 pick up these missions. There are a lot of skeptics who don’t believe the F-35 will be up to the task, but in true Pentagon tradition the Air Force is rigging the test to help the F-35 come out on top. Good for them!

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