Asia/Africa update: July 17 2018



The Taliban attacked a police checkpoint in Kandahar late Monday night, killing at least nine cops while losing 25 of their own fighters according to Afghan officials. They suffered another major loss on Tuesday, when an ISIS suicide bomber attacked either a meeting between local leaders and Taliban officials or a funeral (accounts differ) in Sar-i-Pul province. The bomber killed 20 people, five of them Taliban including a commander of some kind.

Hey, remember how the US decided earlier this week that it would pursue direct talks with the Taliban, a move that could really produce some diplomatic progress toward ending the Afghan War? Well about that, see, General John Nicholson, the US commander in Afghanistan, now says that he was “mischaracterized” in those reports. What Nicholson meant was that the US will do what it can to facilitate talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Which is cool except the Taliban refuses to talk to the Afghan government.

Afghanistan and Iran are beefing over water–specifically over the Helmand River, which flows from Afghanistan into Iran. Afghan farmers, suffering from a regional drought, have been unable to divert water from the river for irrigation in part because of objections from Iran, which is also hurting from the drought and needs all the water it can get. Iran is also opposed to any Afghan dam projects, and Afghans are starting to accuse Tehran of aiding the Taliban in part to prevent any dam projects in western Afghanistan from coming to fruition. The coming age of water wars is really going to be phenomenal.


Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party leader Imran Khan may wind up as prime minister in another week or so if his party does as well as some polling suggests it will in next week’s election. Khan has offered a populist message of anti-corruption and economic justice, but there are reasons to doubt that he’ll be able to fulfill his campaign promises:

Khan has managed to rally against the system and fight against the established political order, but the true test will be if he can actually bring about significant change in a country with several centers of power (the military establishment, the intelligence agencies, the feudal class) and their embedded interests. This may prove to be difficult for Khan since he’s likely to lead a shaky coalition and not enjoy a comfortable majority like Sharif did in parliament.


Did I say the coming age of water wars was going to be phenomenal? Because what I meant was that the coming age of climate-induced poverty and population displacement is going to be phenomenal:

If global greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current pace, they say, heat and humidity levels could become unbearable, especially for the poor.

It is already making them poorer and sicker. Like the Kolkata street vendor who squats on his haunches from fatigue and nausea. Like the woman who sells water to tourists in Delhi and passes out from heatstroke at least once each summer. Like the women and men with fever and headaches who fill emergency rooms. Like the outdoor workers who become so weak or so sick that they routinely miss days of work, and their daily wages.

“These cities are going to become unlivable unless urban governments put in systems of dealing with this phenomenon and make people aware,” said Sujata Saunik, who served as a senior official in the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs and is now a fellow at the Harvard University School of Public Health. “It’s a major public health challenge.”



The United Nations says that at least 289 Malian civilians have been killed so far this year in fighting between various Fulani, Tuareg, Bambara, and Mandé militia groups. This communal conflict has been exploited by Islamist extremist groups, which recruit especially heavily among the Fulani.


Al Jazeera has put together a photo essay about the conditions faced by refugees from the Central African Republic in Cameroon:

Amid an increase in violence since 2016, and with 80 percent of the CAR’s territory held by armed groups fighting for the land and resources, the return of more than 568,000 refugees from countries such as Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad is unlikely.

At the same time, donors are gradually withdrawing their support for the CAR refugees in Cameroon, with UNHCR having received only about 20 percent from the required funding.

While Cameroon remains a safe haven for CAR refugees, it faces two security crises itself – Boko Haram in the Far North and the unrest in parts of the English-speaking South West and North West regions.

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