World update: September 3 2018



UPDATE: Naturally this broke after I’d called it a night:

Jalaluddin Haqqani was almost 80 so this doesn’t come as a huge shock. He lived long enough to go from being a Mujahideen daring of the Reagan administration (at a time when he was one of Osama bin Laden’s patrons) to being considered nearly as bad as ISIS in the post-9/11 world. He went over to the Taliban in the late 1990s and his group has served as an ultra-violent auxiliary to them ever since. He was considered a particular favorite of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency. More, perhaps, on this tomorrow.

One US soldier was killed on Monday in what appears to have been a so-called “insider attack,” meaning someone in the Afghan military carried out the attack. The Pentagon hasn’t been particularly forthcoming on additional details.


The Pakistani government is chafing over the $300 million in Coalition Support Funds that the Pentagon decided to repurpose over the weekend. While the Pentagon’s position is that this money was aid that had been frozen and whose dispersal was conditional on Pakistan taking stronger action against militant groups (i.e., the Afghan Taliban), Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is denying that the money was aid at all. He claims the funds should be treated as reimbursements for actions the Pakistanis have already taken to combat militant groups. To be sure, that is what the CSF program is supposed to do, to reimburse partner countries for contributing to the War on Terror. But clearly the US and Pakistan don’t view Pakistan’s “contributions” in the same light. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is heading to Islamabad this week, and I’m sure the subject of the pretzel CSF monies will be a major part of the agenda.


Reuters has the story of how two of its reporters wound up being railroaded by a Myanmar court and sentenced to seven years in prison for reporting on the massacre of Rohingya civilians by the Myanmar military:

On April 20, a prosecution witness revealed in pre-trial hearings that police planted military documents on Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in order to frame them for violating the country’s Official Secrets Act. That admission drew gasps from the courtroom.

A police officer told the court that he burned notes he made at the time of the reporters’ arrest, but didn’t explain why. Several prosecution witnesses contradicted the police account of where the arrests took place. A police major conceded the “secret” information allegedly found on the reporters wasn’t actually a secret.

And outside the courtroom, military officials even admitted that the killings had indeed taken place.

These bombshells bolstered central assertions of the defense: The arrests were a “pre-planned and staged” effort to silence the truthful reporting of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.

In the end, the holes in the case were not enough to stop the government from punishing the two reporters for revealing an ugly chapter in the history of Myanmar’s young democracy. On Monday, after 39 court appearances and 265 days of imprisonment, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were found guilty of breaching the Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years in prison.


Xi Jinping want to put $60 billion in Chinese funds into Africa:

Speaking at the opening of a major summit with African leaders in Beijing on Monday, Xi said the figure included $15bn in grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans, a credit line of $20bn, $10bn for “development financing” and $5bn to buy imports from the continent.

Chinese companies will be encouraged to invest no less than $10bn in African countries in the next three years, he added.

Government debt from China’s interest-free loans due by the end of 2018 will be written off for indebted poor African countries, as well as for developing nations in the continent’s interior and small island nations, Xi said.

The debt write-off is an interesting proposal depending on how it’s implemented. The big red flag about Chinese largesse has been the debt load that comes along with it so this is either a sign that Beijing is adjusting to meet those concerns or is trying to paper over them with some nice-sounding rhetoric.



The death toll from that ISIS-West Africa attack on a Nigerian military base over the weekend now reportedly stands at 48, up from 30 in previous reports. Well, maybe. The Nigerian military is officially denying that any attack took place at all. With Muhammadu Buhari looking at a potentially tight reelection campaign heading into next year, I guess you may see the Nigerian military just flat out lying about its casualties in order to bolster his record.

Gunmen killed 11 people in an attack on a village in the country’s Plateau state late Sunday night. This violence is linked to the communal farmer-herder violence that’s gripping central Nigeria. Last week eight people were killed in another attack in Plateau state that authorities believe was carried out by Fulani herders.


Donors at an international conference in Berlin on Monday pledged $2.17 billion in aid to the Lake Chad region, which includes parts of Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon. The region is suffering from a major drought along with the effects of the ISIS-West Africa conflict and has been on the brink of famine for months.


A DRC court ruled on Monday ruled that opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba cannot run in December’s presidential election because of his one remaining conviction at the International Criminal Court. Bemba’s war crimes convictions before the ICC, dating to his early 2000s activities in the Central African Republic, were overturned in May, leading to his release from prison, but one conviction for witness tampering remained in place. In any other context this would seem like a normal ruling, but in this case there’s a very good chance that Joseph Kabila’s government is using that ICC conviction to sideline Bemba as part of a larger effort to clear the field for Kabila’s chosen successor, former Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.


The International Court of Justice is hearing arguments in a case that contends the United Kingdom unlawfully broke up Mauritius before the archipelago nation became independent in 1968:

The UK has retained possession of a remote archipelago in the Indian Ocean that includes the strategic US airbase of Diego Garcia through political pressure and secret threats, the international court of justice has been told.

In the opening submissions of a legal challenge to British sovereignty of the Chagos Islands at the court in The Hague, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, Mauritius’s defence minister, alleged that his country was coerced into giving up a large swathe of its territory before independence.

That separation was in breach of UN resolution 1514, passed in 1960, which specifically banned the breakup of colonies before independence, the Mauritian government argued before the UN-backed court, which specialises in territorial and border disputes between states.



Apparently you can count the United States among the countries that would like to see Serbia and Kosovo swap territory if it leads to a resolution to their two decade standoff. As we noted on Friday, many European leaders seem understandably concerned about the idea of opening up the can of exploding worms that is territorial realignment in the Balkans. But there are other European officials who have suggested they’d be open to the idea if it’s what the Serbs and Kosovars want. The problem is that whatever they decide may not stay confined to the Serbia-Kosovo issue. How will Bosnian Serbs respond to something like this? What about Macedonia’s large Albanian minority? The Balkans have reached an uncomfortable stasis, and while that’s not idea it is much better than some of the alternatives.


The man who stabbed two US tourists in Amsterdam on Friday says he was enraged by Geert Wilders and “insults to Islam.” There doesn’t seem to be any indication that he was involved with a larger organization.



It’s still too soon to know just how many artifacts were lost in the fire that consumed Brazil’s National Museum overnight, but the potential destruction is staggering:

Rio de Janeiro’s 200-year-old institution was home to 20m items. It is unclear how many were destroyed in the blaze, but it is believed much of the collection has been lost in the huge fire that started on Sunday.

Among the items feared destroyed by the blaze were a Roman fresco from Pompeii that survived the Vesuvius fire, Egyptian and Greco-Roman artefacts, fossils, dinosaurs, a meteorite found in 1784 and the remains of a 12,000-year-old human named “Luzia”, the oldest human fossil found in Brazil.

Perhaps more critical than any of these is the loss of pre-colonial artifacts, of which the museum had a massive collection. Roman and Egyptian artifacts are easy to find all over the world. Not so much for pre-Colombian civilization in Latin America.

The cause of the fire is of course still unknown as well (authorities are being cautious about approaching the rubble for fear that there could still be hot spots), but many people are blaming austerity. The museum was subject to draconian budget cuts that affected basic maintenance, at a time when the Brazilian government was spending billions of dollars on the fucking Olympics and who-knows-how-much on just plain old everyday corruption. I grant you that maintaining a museum isn’t as important as providing food and other basic needs to living human beings, but the Brazilian government wasn’t doing that either.

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