The Russian government has reportedly been in contact with several Afghan political leaders, including former President Hamid Karzai, to try to bring them to Moscow for peace talks with the Taliban. This is…pretty inappropriate, to be honest, and current President Ashraf Ghani is justifiably pissed that the Russians are basically trying to bypass his government and create some other entity to negotiate on Afghanistan’s behalf. Moscow is trying to position itself as a peace broker in Afghanistan, but Ghani has refused to participate in any Russian-led talks because he argues that they’re competing with a US-driven peace process. Obviously what with all the progress the US has made in bringing peace to Afghanistan, you wouldn’t want to risk upsetting the apple cart. Most of the political figures the Russians have invited seem to have major beef with Ghani, so they undoubtedly relish the chance to undermine him as well as the opportunity to maybe break the ice with the Taliban.
The New York Times has a detailed account of the Taliban attack that killed Kandahar province security chief/warlord Abdul Raziq last month, including the lingering popular theory that the US was behind the killing:
The scramble to get the Americans out of the governor’s compound after General Raziq was killed led to a brief firefight between American and Afghan security forces, with the Americans crashing through a gate and shooting at least one Afghan officer dead as they left, American officials said.
Now, in the days that have followed, the Americans are being accused of General Raziq’s death, rattling the relationship between the allies.
Across Afghanistan, a rumor has spread that the United States must have been behind the killing of General Raziq. That rumor began immediately at the scene of the attack, and spread to social media pages, the streets and even among the country’s top leaders.
In a private meeting, former President Hamid Karzai told the American ambassador, John Bass, that most of the country believed that the Americans assassinated Mr. Raziq at Pakistan’s behest, according to American officials. Just two days after the attack, an Afghan soldier was reported to have opened fire on NATO forces after an argument over the killing of General Raziq.
The 82 year old religious scholar Maulana Sami-ul-Haq was murdered by unknown attackers at his home outside of Islamabad on Friday. Sami-ul-Haq is considered the “father of the (Afghan) Taliban,” because he ran a school in Peshawar in the 1990s that educated and trained many students who crossed into Afghanistan and joined the nascent Taliban rebellion against the Afghan government. It’s unclear who attacked him or why, though some early speculation has revolved around the protests against Asia Bibi’s recent acquittal on blasphemy charges. It’s not clear, though, why anybody would have targeted Sami-ul-Haq, who supported the protests, over that issue.
Speaking of the Asia Bibi protests, the leaders of the Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labaik said on Friday that they plan to call off the three day demonstrations after reaching “an agreement with the government.” That agreement apparently involves the Pakistani government barring Bibi from leaving the country pending an appeal of her acquittal, which it will not contest. Considering that most of Tehreek-e-Labaik’s members would like to lynch Bibi, in forcing her to remain in Pakistan the government may very well be setting her up to be murdered. So that’s nice.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan visited China on Friday and received promises of economic support from Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Chinese foreign ministry. No specifics were mentioned, but Khan is supposed to meet with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang on Saturday and they may get into details.
Gunmen on Friday shot and killed Anil Parihar, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Jammu and Kashmir state. It’s unclear at this point who killed him, but obviously Kashmiri separatists have to be one possibility. Parihar was apparently considered something of a moderate in Kashmir even though he’s the head of a right-wing Hindu nationalist party.
CNBC on Friday teased the possibility that the US and China were closing in on a trade agreement before several White House officials denied it. Apparently CNBC was relying in part on this tweet from Donald Trump:
For reasons I can’t explain the media still hasn’t figured out that Donald sometimes just says shit that isn’t actually, you know, real. Anyway, after shooting up by about 100 points at the start of trading today, owing to CNBC’s original report, the Dow closed down 110 points after the administration’s denials.
According to satellite imagery analysis by 38North.org, North Korea is continuing to operate its Pyongsan Uranium Concentrate Pilot Plant, where the North Koreans process mined uranium ore into “yellowcake” as a first step in the enrichment process. Obviously the North Koreans haven’t made any commitment to stop processing uranium yet, though one would assume it will eventually come up in denuclearization talks.
Amnesty International says that the Nigerian military killed at least 45 members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria earlier this week in Abuja. In its own defense on Friday, the Nigerian army tweeted a video of Donald Trump calling for US soldiers to open fire on any migrants at the US-Mexican border who throw rocks at them. Nice to see the president being used to justify all manner of atrocities. Nigerian officials also insist that the IMN protesters were armed with guns, knives, and gasoline bombs and were the “aggressors.” As Alex Thurston notes, even if the IMN did act aggressively the issue here is the Nigerian military’s systemic human rights failures and the Nigerian government’s refusal to either try or release IMN leader Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been languishing in custody since 2015.
Anglophone separatist fighters attacked a rubber plantation in southwestern Cameroon on Thursday and hacked the fingers off of several plantation workers. This is the second such attack this week–rebels carried out a similar one on Monday and there’s a fear that they’re just going to go from state-run plantation to state-run plantation attacking people.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Doctors Without Borders has compiled a new report on the prevalence of sexual violence in the DRC’s restive Kasai region, and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture:
A brutal war has raged for over two years in southern Congo’s Kasai province. It is a region that is difficult to access for aid organizations due to its remoteness, hostility from the government, and, of course, the violence itself. Two United Nations investigators, an American and a Swede, were killed there around the beginning of the conflict in 2016.
One of the few groups that is present is Doctors Without Borders, commonly known by its French acronym, MSF. It released a report this week that documents a disturbingly high rate of sexual violence perpetrated by armed groups in Kasai. Rapes are being committed many times a day, and they have treated more than 200 victims of sexual violence per month on average since May 2017. Eighty percent of victims said they were raped by armed men.
“Of the 2,600 victims of sexual violence treated by MSF since May 2017, the vast majority were women,” says the report. “Thirty-two were men, some of whom reported having been forced under armed threat to rape members of their own community. Another 162 were children under the age of 15, including 22 under the age of five.”