Asia/Oceania/Africa update: September 8-9 2018

Shanah Tovah to any readers celebrating the Jewish New Year this evening.



Dozens of people were killed in multiple attacks across Afghanistan over the weekend. In one attack, Taliban fighters overran a military installation in Baghlan province, killing as many as 40 Afghan security officers. Another Taliban attack killed 10 Afghan police officers in Wardak province, though Afghan officials said that more than 50 Taliban fighters were also killed in that attack. Another nine Afghan police officers were killed late Saturday in an attack in Herat province.

In Kabul, meanwhile, a large procession of armed fighters gripped the city as they commemorated the 17th anniversary of al-Qaeda’s assassination of Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. Especially for Tajiks, but increasingly for anyone who has issues with the Afghan government, Massoud has become a popular figure. There were concerns that the procession could turn violent. It did not, apart from some guns fired in the air, but it was attacked by a suicide bomber–later claimed by ISIS–who killed at least seven people.

John Bolton is scheduled to deliver a speech on Monday in which he will threaten sanctions against International Criminal Court justices should the ICC pursue an investigation into US war crimes in Afghanistan. Bolton will also, reportedly, announce the closure of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s DC offices because of the PLO’s efforts to pursue an ICC case against Israel.


Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha was released from prison on Monday morning. He’s now under house arrest and reportedly in desperate need of medical care. Kem Sokha was the leader of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party but was imprisoned on treason charges last September–charges that don’t seem to have been much more than an excuse to disband the CNRP ahead of this year’s election.


North Korea commemorated its 70th anniversary on Sunday with–what else–a military parade. As usual, the procession featured all the latest and scariest North Korean military hardware…except for the notable lack of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Needless to say it’s out of character for Pyongyang to hold anything back from one of these shindigs and it’s a sign that, despite the fact that North Korean-US relations have hit another rough patch of late, the North Koreans aren’t looking to provoke anything from the Trump administration and they’re not looking to upset the progress that’s been made in their relations with South Korea.

A more cynical take on this would be that North Korea is going for an “out of sight, out of mind” solution to the nuclear issue, wherein it stops reminding everybody that it has nukes and everybody else agrees to play along. That’s the Israeli model, basically. But while that wouldn’t be an ideal outcome it would still be better than the status quo.



Scott Morrison has only been prime minister for a couple of weeks but the Australian people are already responding to his leadership:

The Coalition’s leadership implosion is continuing to deadweight the Morrison government in the polls, with Labor in front on a two-party-preferred vote of 56% to 44%, according to the latest Newspoll.

Two weeks after Scott Morrison was declared the victor in a poisonous three-way leadership contest that dispatched Malcolm Turnbull from the prime ministership, Labor is in an election-winning position similar to the vote the opposition commanded in 2007 when Kevin Rudd took government from John Howard.

To be fair, Morrison outpolls Labor Party boss Bill Shorten on the question of who voters would prefer as PM. But Morrison’s move to oust Malcolm Turnbull marks the first time since Rudd took over in 2007 that one of these intra-party leadership changes has resulted in a decline in the polls rather than a bump.


African Is a Country’s Cristiano Lanzano looks at the increasing bastardization of left-wing pan-African thought to support the views of xenophobic right-wing European political movements:

Those following immigration politics in Europe, especially Italy, may have noticed the appropriation of the words of Marxist and anti-imperialist heroes and intellectuals by the new nationalist and racist right to support their xenophobic or nationalist arguments. From Samora Machel (Mozambican independence leader), Thomas Sankara (Burkinabe revolutionary), Che Guevara, Simone Weil (a French philosopher influenced by Marxism and anarchism), to Italian figures like Sandro Pertini an anti-fascist partisan during World War II, later leader of the Socialist Party and president of the Italian republic in the 1980s, or Pier Paolo Pasolini (influential communist intellectual).

The use of Marxist-inspired arguments, often distorted or decontextualized, to support racist, traditionalist or nationalist political positions, is referred to as rossobrunismo (red-brownism) in Italy.


Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir canned his entire government on Sunday in an effort to try to stop the country’s economic slide. He later named former Irrigation and Electricity Minister Motazz Moussa as his new prime minister, with a significantly reduced cabinet (down from 31 ministries to 21).


The United Nations announced on Sunday that the militias that have been shooting up the city of Tripoli in recent weeks have agreed to “consolidate” the ceasefire agreement they reached last Tuesday. Basically it looks like they agreed to maintain the ceasefire and implement measures to strengthen it and monitor compliance:


The CIA’s drone program has surged back to life under Donald Trump, and it’s about to expand its African footprint in a major way:

The C.I.A. is poised to conduct secret drone strikes against Qaeda and Islamic State insurgents from a newly expanded air base deep in the Sahara, making aggressive use of powers that were scaled back during the Obama administration and restored by President Trump.

Late in his presidency, Barack Obama sought to put the military in charge of drone attacks after a backlash arose over a series of highly visible strikes, some of which killed civilians. The move was intended, in part, to bring greater transparency to attacks that the United States often refused to acknowledge its role in.

But now the C.I.A. is broadening its drone operations, moving aircraft to northeastern Niger to hunt Islamist militants in southern Libya. The expansion adds to the agency’s limited covert missions in eastern Afghanistan for strikes in Pakistan, and in southern Saudi Arabia for attacks in Yemen.


Boko Haram (its ISIS-West Africa faction) reportedly seized control of the town of Gudumbali on Friday, killing at least eight people and displacing thousands more. The Nigerian army, as has become a bit of a pattern, initially denied that the incident took place but then on Sunday skipped ahead to the part where Nigerian forces have definitely moved in and restored order. There’s conveniently no easy way to confirm that. With Muhammadu Buhari looking at a tough reelection fight next year, the Nigerian military increasingly seems more concerned about managing his public relations than about actually prosecuting the war against the two Boko Harams.


English-speaking militants disrupted traffic and set buses ablaze over the weekend outside of the city of Yaounde, capital of Cameroon’s predominantly English-speaking northwest. The rebels even apparently stole some heavy machinery and used it to destroy roads in the area.


Angolan President João Lourenço was elected leader of his People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola party on Saturday, replacing former President José Eduardo dos Santos. Dos Santos had retained the top party job after Lourenço succeeded him as president last year, and there were concerns that he would use that post to continue pulling strings behind the scenes. But Lourenço has moved fairly decisively to isolate dos Santos, and the cloud of corruption hanging over the former president and his family had made dos Santos’s position untenable.


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