Global Tech Stories (December 28, 2021)

Here’s what’s going on in the world of technology for this Tuesday.

Explainer: What is Log4j and why does it scare cybersecurity specialists and what does it do?

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A tweet written by thought? No longer the stuff of science fiction as of December 23, 2021. A Stentrode Brain Computer Interface (SBCI) allows the user to write using thoughts.

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A team in Singapore has developed 2D artificial synapses for computing. This could lead to tech and devices that store and access information like the human brain.

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A team from Hefei Institutes of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have created perovskite solar cells that self-heal and have a protective quality against humidity. This makes for more resilient and versatile solar cells, especially in areas of high humidity and rain fall.

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Wearable integrated electronics have taken one step closer to commercial viability thanks to efforts of researchers at Japan’s RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science and RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research. The secret ingredients are gold and water vapor plasma.

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The Metaverse is attracting the attention of Chinese internet giant Baidu. The company is experimenting with a virtual reality app, XiRang, which can only be accessed in China and might take six years to reach the market.

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Global Affairs Weekly Stories (Week of December 26, 2021)

Here’s what’s going on in the world for the week of Dec. 26, 2021.

Global News

The James Webb Telescope has launched.

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An explainer for the new COVID-19 treatment pills.

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Americas

US employees of Amazon will now have an easier time forming unions.

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Lithium mines in Mexico are a source of tensions for the Mexican government.

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The Canadian economy is back to pre-pandemic levels.

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Africa

The United States will be lifting travel bans for 8 southern African countries on New Year’s Eve.

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Protestors took to the streets of several Libyan cities to demand the presidential elections be held on time after the promised vote was cancelled.

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Gambia’s truth commission released a report on the crimes of former dictator, Yahya Jammeh, should face trial for crimes he committed during his 22 years in power, before he lost the 2016 election and fled to Equatorial Guinea.

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Desmond Tutu, a human rights advocate, foe of Apartheid, and Nobel Peace prize recipient, died Sunday at 90 years old.

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Europe

Russian president Vladimir Putin has stated he will consider alternatives if NATO does not comply with his demands of military force reduction in Central and Eastern Europe and the barring of Ukraine from joining the alliance.

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The website OVD-Info has been blocked on the Russian Internet. The website is known for tracking the arrests of protestors and offering legal aid to detained protestors.

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The EU and U.K have announced a formal agreement to manage shared fishing stocks. However, this deal does not cover the ongoing dispute between France and the UK over fishing rights and access to fishing stocks. Environmentalists also say the deal will continue overexploitation of fishing stocks.

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Middle East

The Saudi-led coalition reported striking a Houthi rebel camp in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. The coalition targeted weapons storehouses as part of a larger aerial bombing campaign.

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The Israeli government plans on doubling the number of settlers in the Israeli-controlled parts of the Golan Heights in the coming years.

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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I tested positive for COVID-19 after displaying mild symptoms. He is the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christian community, but not in the same manner as the Pope as the head of the Catholic Church. Instead, he’s best described as first among equals. He is doing well and wished Christmas wishes to all and called on the faithful to follow medical guidance and get vaccinated.

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Asia

Taliban has dissolved the Electoral Commission, Electoral Complaint Commission, the Ministry for Peace and the Ministry of Parliamentarian Affairs. These commissions and ministries were considered “unnecessary” by the Taliban government but could be brought back later on. The Taliban had already dissolved the Women’s Affairs Ministry.

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Japan is bolstering bilateral development of new technologies and replacing older fighter craft as part of an approved 5.4 trillion-yen defense budget for fiscal year 2022.

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Hundreds of people fled into Thailand after an airstrike by the Myanmar military in the border town of Lay Kay Kaw, as part of an operation targeting ethnic Karen guerillas. Fighting in the region grew since last February when the Myanmar military launched a coup against the elected government and the Karen guerillas offered safe haven for those who opposed the military.

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Xi’an, home to 13 million people, is under lockdown after confirmed COVID-19 infections reached their highest in 21 months. China’s “zero-Covid” strategy is still in effect despite the relatively low number of confirmed cases in country.

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The Communist Party Chief of Xinjiang, Chen Quanguo, is moving to another post. Ma Xingrui, who formerly served as governor of Guangdong providence, will take his place.

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Global Affairs Weekly Stories (Week of December 19, 2021)

Here’s what’s going on in the world for the week of Dec. 19, 2021.

Global News

The “hacker-for-hire” industry is taking on new and threatening potential with competing spyware companies targeting political dissidents for authoritarian countries.

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The United Nations has failed to open new negotiations governing the use of Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) after push back by weapon system creators such as Russia and the United States.

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United Nations special rapporteur for the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, called upon the international community to work with Bangladesh to help with Rohingya refugees in the country while cutting off resources and support to the Myanmar military.

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Americas

Anvisa, the national health regulator of Brazil, has requested additional law enforcement support after growing threats from anti-vaccine proponents stemming from the organization’s approval of COVID-19 vaccines for young children. Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil and major source of anti-vaccine sentiments, has threatened to release identities of those working at Anvisa and has spread misinformation throughout the country.

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Chile elected the youngest president in the country’s history, Gabriel Boric, with 56% of the vote. Boric plans on introducing European style social democracy to the country to tackle economic and social inequalities, but faces a divided congress and a rewriting of the nation’s constitution. However, this may also be a bell weather for the rest of Latin America.

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Africa

Morocco is starting to implement recycling via composting waste with the help of Swiss company Elephant Vert (translated as Green Elephant). However, the kingdom still lacks a comprehensive sorting and collection.

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The United Nations voted to set up a three-person team to investigate human rights abuses in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, much to the objections of the government. While a report on abuses in the region already exists, it may be under reporting abuses.

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A national public consultation is scheduled to be held between January and March 2022, according to Tunisian president Kais Saied, as part of plans to create a national referendum on political reforms scheduled for July 25, 2022. The Parliament is still frozen and will be until December 17, 2022, though they will be impacted by the referendum.

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Europe

Thousands are protesting proposed legislation that would force the sale of TVN, a US-owned channel that has been critical of the government. This follows other attempts by the Polish government to target critics in the media, according to opposition parties and protestors.

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Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated Moscow is ready to increase provocative actions along the border with Ukraine and other former Soviet countries if their demands are not taken seriously by NATO and the West. Among those demands are keeping Ukraine and other former Soviet countries from joining NATO and rolling back military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe. These demands may be viewed as provocative to the West, but they might be considered defensive by Moscow, which views their regional security as under threat by an expanding NATO encircling Russia’s Western border.

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German environment minister, Steffi Lemke, warns of the next crisis is a biodiversity crisis. While fighting against climate change is needed, lawmakers and society also need to combat the loss of species, and there can be overlap of efforts such as restoration of natural habitats to fight both.

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Middle East

Artifacts ravaged by Daesh (Islamic State) are being restored in the Museum of Mosul in Iraq, with the help of French and American and local experts. In addition, the Iraqi government is making repatriation of stolen artifacts a priority and plans restoring the museum to its pre Daesh state.

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The first confirmed case of Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been announced in Iran by the health ministry. There are two more potential cases under review, and the alleged source was a middle-aged man coming back from travel in the United Arab Emirates.

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Idlib, Syria still needs aid and humanitarian assistance, but the deliveries into rebel-held territory by the United Nations requires authorization that is set to expire Jan. 10, 2022.

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Asia

Laos and China opened a scenic railway connecting the capital of Laos, Vientiane, with Kunming in Southern China. Laos is heavily indebted to China already and faces potential risks from the rail project such as being unable to pay off the investment and being on the hook for some or all of the debt if the project fails to generate a profit.

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The Organization for Islamic Cooperation concluded a summit in Islamabad, Pakistan to create ways to provide financing and support to the people of Afghanistan without directly dealing with the Taliban. The country is on the brink of economic collapse as the Taliban have taken little effort to actually fulfil the promises they made on women’s rights and protecting minorities, forcing nations with assets from Afghanistan to find ways to help the people without rewarding the Taliban for ignoring their own promises.

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21,000 people have been displaced by major flooding in Malaysia after the equivalent of one month’s rainfall fell within 48 hours between Friday and Saturday.

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Global Tech Stories (December 14, 2021)

Here’s what’s going on in the world of technology for this Tuesday.

Goldman Sachs’s Eric Sheridan gives predictions on what he expects will come with the Metaverse. Great predictions that make the stuff of science fiction sound more plausible like interacting in real-time across the globe with avatars and many new ways to interact with the Internet.

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The National Science Foundation and Brave Software have developed an open-source tool to fight privacy invasive scripts. SugarCoat, targets scripts that harm privacy, such as tracking scripts, and replaces them with scripts that mirror the original scripts minus the privacy invasive properties. It was designed to be integrated with privacy focused browsers, like Firefox, Tor, and Brave as well as browser extensions such as uBlick Origin.

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From iPhones to the Mars Rover, these programs are in everything. Yet there is a new and dangerous flaw discovered in the LOG4J, a Java open-source library. Even if a patch is made, the ubiquity of this program will make this a vulnerability for a long time.

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Green Hydrogen could be the missing link for renewable energy and making the world carbon neutral. Here’s how.

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An Israeli firm developed a way to store solar energy and power homes at night. The secret lies with the use of air.

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Japanese company is creating power suits that move with the body and detects where the body needs assistance.

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Global Affairs Weekly Stories (Week of December 12, 2021)

Here’s what’s going on in the world for the week of Dec. 12, 2021.

Global News

Half a billion people were forced into extreme poverty due to healthcare costs from the pandemic last year, according to the World Health Organization and World Bank.

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The Taliban are costing Afghans the equivalent of a billion US dollars by restricting women, making economic recovery impossible. Before the Taliban imposed severe restrictions on women, Afghan women made up 20% of the workforce and 5% of Afghanistan’s GDP. While the Taliban promised to respect women’s rights and freedoms, they are unlikely to actually fulfill their international promises.

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Americas

Argentinians took to the streets to demand their government not renegotiate with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the country’s debt to the fund. Many Argentinians view IMF programs as having caused or exacerbated their crises. Yet the country is also in the grip of a recession, and the refusal to renegotiate the debt could harm job growth in the country.

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The US Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection received a 38-slide power point presentation outlining several ways Donald Trump could have tried to retain the presidency after losing the 2020 Presidential race to President Joe Biden. Turned over by former Trump White House official Mark Meadows, the document detailed various strategies the Trump administration could have utilized, based on debunked and false claims of voter fraud and other conspiracy theories. Meadows had the document since January 4th, when it was presented to Republican members of Congress and the Senate.

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Canadian and US trade authorities are engaged in a dispute over proposed US tax credit for electric vehicles. The Canadian government fears the credits will undermine domestic production of electric vehicles in Ontario and risk the North American auto industry.

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Africa

The Rwandan government is working to decarbonize public transit with electric motor bikes. While the government seeks to convert a quarter of the nation’s micro buses, 20 percent of buses, and 30 percent of motorcycles to electric by 2030, the lack of charging stations nationally is posing a problem to widespread adoption.

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced he is self-isolating after testing positive for the Covid-19 virus. Despite having mild symptoms, Ramaphosa encouraged all South Africans to get the vaccine and follow Covid reduction strategies.

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The Malian military government announced January 31st as the day they will release a timetable for democratic elections in the country.

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Europe

Engineered Arts, a robot building company in the United Kingdom, has developed a robot with the most advanced facial expressions of any to date. Ameca, the robot in this story, can be programmed and customized in its actions.  

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Serbian protestors blocked roads in various cities including the capital Belgrade for the third weekend in a row. The move is aimed at drawing attention to environmental issues originating from lithium mining, and demands of the government to prevent any company from creating mining operations in the country.

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The G-7 issued a joint statement calling on Russia to deescalate tensions over Ukraine and warned of severe consequences should Putin launch an invasion of the country. The Russian government contends that NATO expansion threatens Russian sovereignty and domestic security.

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Middle East

Judge Tarek Bitar, head of the investigation into the port explosion in Beirut in 2020, demanded the arrest of former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, after an arrest warrant for Khalil was issued in October but not carried out. Its unclear if Khalil will be arrested, he is connected to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Hezbollah, and the government is wracked by political infighting and stalemate since October.  

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Syria to host the 2024 Arab energy conference. This event signals renewing ties between Syria and the country’s Arab neighbors after years of civil war in the country.

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will meet with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan as part of the first ever visit to the United Arab Emirates by an Israeli prime minister. The two leaders will likely focus on deepening economic and security ties.

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Asia

President Moon Jae-In of South Korea announced that North Korea, China, South Korea, and the United States have all agreed in principle to an end to the Korean War. While all sides agree that the war should end, Kim So-Young, sister of North Korea’s head of state Kim Jung-Un, demands that the United States gives up what she alleges is a “hostile policy” towards North Korea. This prevented any talks from happening between the two countries.

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As the Afghan economy collapses, drug production has increased with meth and heroin making major gains in production despite promises by the Taliban to ban them. While produced locally, many of these drugs are bound for markets overseas. The Taliban also used drug money to fund their insurgency and is now faced with the problem of how to deal with the market that many Afghans rely on due to economic conditions.

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Australia, Japan and the United States have agreed to jointly fund and laying undersea fiber optic cable to boost Internet connectivity for three nations in Polynesia. The agreement is the latest in the investments by Indo-Pacific allies to invest in the telecommunications of the Pacific.

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Global Affairs Weekly Stories (Week of Dec. 5, 2021)

Here’s what’s going on in the world for the week of December 5th.

Global News

World Health Organization claims the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus has been found in 38 countries, but there have been no reported deaths.

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American scientists created robots, created from stem cells gathered from African clawed frogs, that can self-heal reproduce. This has led to the discovery of a new form of biological reproduction.

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Cyber security experts have identified 14 new types of web browser attacks called cross-site leaks (XS-leaks).

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Americas

Xiomara Castro became the first woman President of Honduras. While her party is the first liberal party to rule the country in 12 years, President elect Castro would still need a solid 2/3 majority in National Congress to rewrite the country’s Constitution.  

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Twitter shut down 3,456 accounts connected to state-backed information operations linked to China, Russia, Mexico, Venezuela, Tanzania and Uganda. The majority of the accounts, 2,048, were from CCP supporting accounts amplifying Beijing’s narrative about Xinjiang and the Uighurs.

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Paraguay faces an epidemic of child pregnancies due to the country’s restrictive abortion laws and sexual violence.

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Africa

President Adama Barrow was declared the winner of the presidential race in the Gambia, Saturday, by the electoral commission, setting him up for reelection of the country. However, his election might be challenged as the other contestants in the race are calling for investigations and rejecting the results.

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Locals, conservationists are protesting Shell’s plans to use seismic blasting along 6,000 kms of pristine coastline that is both a tourist area and considered an ecologically sensitive sanctuary. This involves blasting the seafloor with powerful airguns at intervals to measure echoes, can take weeks or even months to complete and causes sound that travels for hundreds of kilometers, potentially disrupting local marine life.

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Google is planning on developing digital infrastructure in the continent after investing a billion USD.

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Europe

Pope Francis met with refugees in Lesbos, Greece on Sunday as part of his five-day tour of Greece and Cyprus to call attention to the plight of refugees and migrants in the region. During his trip, Francis has been critical of the response from Europe towards refugees and asylum seekers.

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Germany is placing new restrictions and mulling a mandatory vaccine requirement to combat a rise in Covid-19 cases. Other European nations are considering mandatory vaccine mandates as well.

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin hopes to have WHO approval for the Sputnik V vaccine soon. If approved, it could be added to the COVAX stockpile and boast domestic vaccination rates.

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Middle East

Daesh (Islamic State) is launching hit and run attacks in Northern Iraq, in Kurdish territory. The violence comes as more Iraqis are growing disappointed with the government.

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The Tunisian General Labor Union (UTGG) has called for early elections because of concerns over democratic gains being threatened by the current president. After consolidating power and dismissing the government to rule by decree, president Kais Saeed has not yet announced a plan to end the state of emergency imposed on the country or returning the country to a parliamentary democracy.

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France has joined Saudi Arabia to try and find a solution to the diplomatic dispute between Riyadh and Beirut. Last month, both nations recalled their ambassadors over a row when the information minister of Lebanon criticized the Saudi-led war in Yeman.

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Asia

Mount Semeru erupted on Saturday in the Indonesian island of Java, killing at least 14, injuring 56, and destroying villages near the volcano. Authorities are searching for seven people and coordinating disaster assistance for the affected communities.

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Myanmar security forces drove a car into a protest in the capital city of Yangon Sunday, killing five protestors and arresting 15 more. The car, according to video and photographic evidence, drove into the protestors and started chasing individual demonstrators, with security forces getting out of the car to attack and arrest people they caught.

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Over 100 former security forces personnel had been killed or forcibly disappeared after surrendering to the Taliban, according to Human Rights Watch. According to interviews and reports, the Taliban used information gathered in the amnesty program to target individuals and their families s part of reprisals and killings carried out by senior leadership of the Taliban.

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Global Affairs Weekly Stories (Week of Nov. 28, 2021)

Here’s what’s going on in the world for the week of November 28th.

Global News

Explainer on the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus

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NASA launches spacecraft Tuesday as part of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission. The idea is to alter the trajectory of Dimorphos, a moonlet around 160 meters (525 feet) in diameter, by crashing a spacecraft into it.

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Neutrinos detected at the Large Hadron Collider.

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Americas

Peruvian president Pedro Castillo Terrones promises support to affected communities after the country suffered a 7.5 magnitude earthquake. This is the second earthquake after a 5.2 earthquake also struck in El Callao, Lima.

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Samsung will open a semiconductor factory in Austin, Texas by 2024. The project, set at $17 billion is following other companies pledges to build similar factories in the USA.

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 France willing to discuss autonomy for the island of Guadalupe, which is currently considered French territory.

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Africa

Despite reinstating the civilian prime minister, the military still faces protests in Sudan.

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Egypt is reopening the Avenue of the Sphinxes after years of excavations and restorations.

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Gunman kidnapped five Chinese nationals near a mine in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Tensions have been high between the Chinese mining operation and local Congolese, though the gunmen have not been identified.

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Europe

Dutch police arrest couple attempting to flee the country after the couple left the hotel they were quarantining in. The couple tested positive for Covid-19.

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New coalition government formed to replace the Merkel government in Germany. The three-party alliance will focus on continuing existing commitments to fight climate change, business deals, and strengthening existing alliances with the USA and European nations.

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The new Omicron variant of Covid-19 is showing up in parts of Europe, leading to EU members imposing travel bans from Southern Africa. How fast the new variant is spreading is unclear.

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Middle East

UAE and Amazon will open an Amazon fulfillment center by 2024, in accordance to the country’s carbon reduction initiatives.

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UAE introducing 40 new laws aimed at areas such as family law and rights. These changes are part of the nation’s work towards a competitive edge culturally and socially on conservative neighbors like Saudi Arabia.

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A probe into the slumping Turkish lira has been launched.

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Asia

The Cambodian prince and former prime minister Norodom Ranariddh, died in France at the age of 77. The cause of death has yet to be released.

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Philippine naval vessels will travel to the troops stationed at the Second Thomas Shoal. Prior attempts last week were stopped by the presence of Chinese maritime militia and Chinese coast guard vessels.

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Tata looking into developing a $300 million semiconductor assembly and test site in India.

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Global Affairs Weekly Stories (Week of Nov. 7, 2021)

Here’s what’s happening in the world for the week of Nov. 7th, 2021.

Global News

Explainer on COP26 and why it is important.

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World reactions to COP26

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Many nations are working with flawed or incomplete data when reporting their progress on fighting climate change, according to the Washington Post.

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Americas

Covid-19 deaths have declined for 8 weeks across the Americas.

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Brazil, The United States, and Canada are the countries most affected by rising temperatures in the Americas.

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The Florida-based GEO Group, which runs for-profit immigration detention centers in the USA, has suspended their Voluntary Work Program after a Washington court found that detainees were owed the minimum wage in Washington State, and the company owed $23 million to detainees in unjust profits and back pay.

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Restoring Mexico’s mangroves will combat climate change in Mexico and beyond.

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Anti-vaccine disinformation on social media is part of the reason why only 25% of Peru’s indigenous population have been vaccinated, despite over 55% of the country being vaccinated. Other factors are the remoteness of communities and mistrust of the government due to past abuses.

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Fast fashion from the rest of the world is responsible for creating a major environmental threat for Chile, a dumping ground for discarded clothing.

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American researchers are working on growing coral reefs to fight rising sea levels and environmental threats.

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Africa

The Tunisian government has issued an international arrest warrant for Moncef Marzouki, the former president, on charges of undermining the nation’s security. The ex-president is currently in France. Critics claim the current president, Kais Saied, is attempting to discredit rivals and consolidate power.

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South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) Party gained less than 50% of the vote, with voter turnout nationally at 47%.

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Burundi Human Rights Initiative, an independent organization that monitors human rights abuses in the country, reported a “clear pattern” of human rights abuses such as torture and enforced disappearances. The trend started in Mid-2021, and members of the police and intelligence community have been accused of perpetrating the violence.

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Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is imposing sanctions on Mali after the interim government informed the organization that they would not be holding elections in February.

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King Mohamed IV said in a national speech that the Western Sahal’s status is not up for debate, effectively continuing Morocco’s policy stance on the region.

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Europe

Russian diplomat found dead outside of the Russian Embassy in Berlin. The cause of death is not known and the body had been sent back to Russia. Some reports claim the diplomat had been an agent of the FSG, but these reports have not been confirmed yet.

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Stage is set for the biggest trail against the Mafia in Italian history. Currently, 70 members of the criminal network have been sent to prison and another 355 will face trial.

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Protestors outside of a prison in Rustavi, Georgia, are demanding former President Mikheil Saakashvili be transferred to a private clinic. Supporters claim he is weakening due to a hunger strike, but authorities claim he is normal, and even eating.

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The Serbian president Milorad Dodik announced he intends to form a Bosnian Serb army. This comes as President Dodik has threatening to withdraw from national institutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and declare separation for Republika Srpska, which is part of Bosnia Herzegovina based on the Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the conflict of the 1990s.

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Environmentalists and conservationists are investigating the use of peat bogs to fight climate change. The peat bogs make up 3% of the Earth’s surface, but soak up 30% of land-based carbon, and could be highly effective at cutting CO2 levels.

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Middle East

Iraqis under greater water stress due to climate change, ongoing damming projects in Turkey, and the result of years of conflict with Daesh (ISIS).

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The Israeli government is upset over US promise to reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem, the de facto embassy for Palestinians.

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Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi avoided an assassination attempt by drone. The explosive-laden drone injured six people at his home, but nobody has claimed responsibility yet.

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Asia

The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan maintains it’s majority despite losing 15 seats. The party still maintains an absolute majority and control of all parliamentary committees.

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A seven-member European Union delegation visited Taiwan.

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The UN announces preliminary evidence of crimes against humanity based on over 1.5 million pieces of evidence and 200,000 communications since the military seized power, indicating a pattern of abuses and crimes against civilians in Myanmar.

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Tokyo is considering a 300 trillion yen stimulus package to help curb the economic impact of Covid-19. This would require issuing new government debt.

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This Week in Global Affairs News

News from around the world and for this edition, beyond it.

Global News

First potentially identified exoplanet in another galaxy, M-51.

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The world is on track for a 2.7 degree rise in temperature despite pledges.

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Americas

Congress is establishing the Bureau of Cybersecurity and Digital Policy.

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The Brazilian government failed to protect indigenous communities as murders increased in 2020 by 61% and incursions on indigenous lands increased by 137%.

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Mexican authorities have reclaimed 3 artifacts from Italy after the Italian Unit for the Protection of Cultural Heritage confiscated the pieces during an inspection. The items were illegally taken from Mexico and set for auction.

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Commission votes to recommend charges against Bolsonaro for his handling of the Covid crisis in Brazil.

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The first President of Barbados, Sandra Mason, will be sworn in November 30th. She will replace the British Queen as Barbados’ head of state.

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Africa

Congo to ban lumber exports in order to preserve their rainforests.

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University of Aberdeen is returning artifacts, stolen in the late 19th Century by British forces, to Nigeria. Among them is the bronze depiction of an Oba or king of the Kingdom of Benin.

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Nigerian forces claim to have killed the new head of Islamic State West Africa Providence (ISWAP).

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Only 5 African countries will reach full vaccination of 40% of their populations by the end of the year, according to the World Health Organization.

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Europe

EU working on a common stance for negotiating with tech companies.

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Many European nations are claiming more ambitious climate goals ahead of the COP26 summit.

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The captain of a British fishing vessel will be heading to court after his ship was detained by French authorities.

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Portugal PM Antonio Costa will not be attending COP26 due to an election.

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The number of Covid-19 cases in Poland has surpassed 3 million.

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Middle East

More lawsuits threaten to derail the investigations into the August 4th blast in Lebanon.

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In retaliation to Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi’s comments about the Saudi-led war in Yemen, Riyadh has given the Lebanese ambassador to the kingdom 48 hours to leave the country and has banned all imports from Lebanon.

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Iran and several countries are in talks to set a date for negotiations in Vienna, as part of an effort to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

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Iran grappling with cyberattacks targeting gas stations.

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Saudi Arabia might raise prices on light crude grades destined for Asia by December.

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Asia

Japanese Princess marries a commoner, despite pressure from conservative critics and social media trolling.  

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Russia not ready to recognize the Taliban at the UN, citing the necessity to deliver on promises the Taliban made to the international community.

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Pakistan vowing to crack down on Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), a banned and violent Islamist group, after clashes with police.

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US Senators calling for an exemption for India from the sanctions for doing business with Russia. The sanctions would apply due to the CAATSA, which was introduced in 2017 to punish countries doing business with the Russian military among other parts of the Russian government.

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Companies with more than 1 million users in China will be subject to a security review by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) before they can send user data overseas.

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Collision Course: China and the Taliban

The Problem in a paragraph- China has economic and domestic security risks with an unstable Afghanistan, from BRI projects in the region and the shared border in Northern Afghanistan/Western China. The Taliban are a major risk factor because they cannot be trusted to keep their commitments to domestic stability and security, and follow an ideology of governance that promotes instability and terrorism. The CCP cannot call upon reliable allies to do the fighting if conflict arises, as the regional security framework is lackluster and Afghanistan’s neighbors have either vested interest in the Taliban and militant groups operating openly, or do not trust Chinese ambitions for the larger region. China and the Taliban have mutually conflicting goals and visions for Afghanistan. 

Taliban Risks

The Afghan Taliban (referred hereafter as the Taliban) have a history of bad faith dealings following a pattern of using force to change conditions on the ground that undermine peace plans, betraying agreements once they acquire what they want, and actively breaking promises they make while professing to honor them.

One example is the promise the Taliban has made to Beijing about the Uighur militants and keeping Afghanistan free of them. According to one report, Akhtar Mohammad Khairzada, deputy governor of Badakhshan, has claimed foreign fighters have come to the region and served with the Taliban. Other officials and analysts have claimed the Taliban is bolstering their ranks with Uighur, Turkic, and Uzbek, and other foreign groups due to the strategic location of Badakhshan between Pakistan, China, and Tajikistan. The additional manpower from these groups helped the Taliban to wrestle for control in Maimi district, and generally become a major force in the region.

While promising to prevent Uighur crossings into Afghanistan, the Taliban still hosts training camps to train fighters for ongoing conflicts and “war”.  As of 2020, the Taliban is still operating a training camp for war on the Chinese border region of Badakhshan- the Abu Ubaidah Ibn Jarrah Training Center.  The Taliban has an active militant training camp on the border with China, one that is in the same territory as Taliban affiliated Uighur militants.  They are actively recruiting and trying to attract fighters with a focus on fighting a “war” despite the USA withdrawing.  While the Afghan Taliban has claimed they would prevent Uighur insurgents, Uighur militants have been crossing into Afghanistan, particularly in Badakhshan, despite Taliban claims to barring Uighurs from entering the country.  Currently, these militants are going to fight for a local branch of Islamic State or as part of the Taliban. 

The Taliban cannot speak with a unified voice as they are made up of different groups that were loosely unified in their fight against the Soviet Union and the United States. The early Taliban derived their power from the support of militias raised in the Madrasas in rural areas, and could barely control them during the early 1990s. Today, the Taliban still has the problem with internal unity and has been vague to avoid angering rank and file members. In one example, several members of the Taliban joined ISIL-K after internal disagreements over the direction of the movement. The nature of alliances and commitments is such that different factions making up the Taliban can break off and join other groups, with a risk to the overall strength and cohesion of the Taliban as a political entity.

There is no reason to believe the Taliban has changed for the better. The areas under Taliban rule are reporting violence and repression by the group similar to what was reported in the 1990s.  The Taliban may be more sophisticated for an international audience and promote a moderate image abroad, but they are just as violent and repressive as they were in the 1990s. In most of the territories the Taliban have taken over, women’s education has either ceased altogether or is severely limited.  Part of this reflects local commanders having leeway to enforce Taliban decrees as they see fit, but mostly this is part of the way the Taliban traditionally treated women’s education. Musicians in areas the Taliban is actively threatening are worried that the Taliban will return to banning music and killing musicians. The educated youth of Afghanistan are also fleeing the country, despite Taliban assurances their freedoms and successes will be protected. Based on their present actions, the youth have no reason to believe the Taliban leadership, as the actions on the ground indicate the Taliban is acting the same way it did when it took over the country back in the 1990s.

Chinese action in Afghanistan as a risk

Beijing has taken steps to increase Chinese influence in Afghanistan, and some of it undermines long-term stability goals in the country.

On the economic side, Beijing is using BRI projects to hold off other nations from investing in Afghanistan. One example was in December 2011, when the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) won a $400 million bid to drill in three oilfields in the Afghan provinces of Faryab and Sar-i-Pul, a contract lasting for 25 years. The fields hold only 87 million barrels, a fraction of Iran’s oilfield capacity, but China has not drilled the wells. Another example is the Mes Aynak mine, which Beijing secured, but has done little to develop since winning the bid. The cost to Kabul for the lack of activity in the Mes Aynak mine is estimated at 2 billion USD, almost the total amount the mine contract was worth in 2007. Meanwhile the Taliban has been illegally mining the region for hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth in precious metals. For Kabul, the mine is a major economic asset to the country, which in 2018 relied on foreign aid for 40% of GDP. While Beijing is holding back on the mine, they are reportedly in negotiations with the Taliban for infrastructure contracts. 

 In terms of security, China has stationed PLA troops in Badakhshan, but the Afghan government balked at Beijing’s attempts to create a Chinese military base in the region. Beijing also attempted to force the Afghan government to take Chinese navigation and internet systems and Chinese military hardware, which Kabul believes would have rendered them dependent on China for security goods. When rebuffed by Afghan government officials, Beijing started doling out equipment to rival political powers and the Taliban in Badakhshan. Beijing also sought to cultivate local power brokers and undercut the national Afghan government. Such behaviors have increased local resentment towards the Chinese presence in communities that had been promised gains from the BRI. It also poses a security risk to Kabul as Beijing is effectively cultivating potential rivals to regional authority from Kabul. 

Lastly, Beijing is undermining trust with Kabul. On December 10, 2020, Kabul authorities broke up an alleged Chinese spy ring in the capital, one that had been operating for seven years before it’s discovery.  Indian intelligence helped Afghan authorities in uncovering the spy ring, which was working with the Haqqani Network to track down Uighurs in country. The alleged spy ring was made up of Chinese nationals who were attempting to set up a fake cell of the East Turkistan Independence Movement (ETIM) to ensnare Uighur separatists in Afghanistan. The alleged spy ring was discovered by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, after receiving intelligence on the ring from the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), India’s foreign spy agency. The arrests of Chinese nationals were coupled with authorities seizing arms and drugs found with the suspects. The Haqqani Network, which the alleged spy ring was attempting to infiltrate, has been driving insurgent conflict in Afghanistan for 40 years.  

As China moves into Afghanistan for economic, security, and geopolitical reasons, Beijing has made a bet on the Taliban becoming the political power in Afghanistan. They also have investment and security concerns in the country that force China to be present. Yet the Taliban cannot be trusted to be a responsible actor on the international stage and follow a domestic policy that will force them into conflict with China and other border nations, possibly internationally.

Jihadist groups are starting to orientate their focus on China in response to China’s rise in geopolitical power and military expansion and modernization efforts. One example of a new wave of Jihadist attention towards China is the Jihadist cleric, Abu Zar al-Burmi, is active in recruitment and driving the focus against China for actions against the Uighurs and Rohingya and more generally against Islamic populations. He’s active in Pakistan and Afghanistan and his rhetoric has strongly focused on China’s activities in Central and South Asia. While the United States, Russia, and the West in general, are still considered enemies, China is joining that list of target nations. 

For the Taliban, this means more Jihadists groups will come to Afghanistan to fight against China and possibly launch attacks in the region, which the Taliban may not actually care much about. October 2020, the Afghan Taliban claimed it was under no obligation to sever ties with al Qaeda. The Taliban has strong links to al Qaeda even in 2021, despite pledges to distance themselves from the international terrorist group.  Historically, al Qaeda helped strengthen the Taliban in Afghanistan and spend decades developing overlapping allegiances between the two organizations.  The Taliban is attempting to maintain their relationship with al Qaeda while convincing the larger international community that they can be trusted to keep Afghanistan free of terrorist organizations.  One example is when Taliban officials floated the idea of treating al Qaeda fighters as “refugees” in Taliban controlled territories.  As of February 25, 2021, the Taliban has made little effort to actually rein in al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the terrorist group is currently gaining strength in country under the protection of the Afghan Taliban.   

The proposed solutions Beijing has for Afghanistan also seem undermined from the start. Relying on other nations to curtail the risks in Afghanistan is fraught with other goals Beijing is pursuing at the potential determent of their would-be allies. Islamabad uses the Taliban to check Indian geopolitical influence and has a history of supporting militants, but their connections are not as easily disentangled due to domestic connections between these groups and the Pakistani military and parts of government.  One example is the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and their relationship with the Afghan Taliban. While Islamabad doesn’t want a total Taliban victory due to fears that it could galvanize their own domestic insurgents, they may not have much of an option to confront them in Afghanistan.

Tajikistan has their own issues with China. In 2010, China gained part of the Pamir region as part of a concession by Tajikistan in return for assistance with security.  The Pamirs are resource rich and located primarily in Tajikistan, but strategic in location for potential military operations in Afghanistan and Central Asia.  In 2020, a Chinese historian published an article on official outlets of the PRC claiming the entire Pamirs belong to China historically and should be returned.  Citing only Chinese sources and arguing for taking back the entire region, the article stirred anger both in Tajikistan and Russia.  This also stoked fears and suspicions that Beijing is going to try to annex the territory after building up the military infrastructure and power, and that the BRI and other promises by Beijing are just temporary measures to stall response. Beijing may offer to work with Dushanbe to fight militants on the border, Dushanbe and other Central Asian nations are likely looking at how such asks might position them into subservience or weakness to Beijing.  With 52% of the country’s debt owed to China and increased Chinese military presence close to the Wakhan Corridor, Tajik government officials may worry about being used as a staging point for military operations in Central Asia and being pulled into Beijing’s larger plans for power projection in Central Asia.

Russia is a complicated factor as well. Beijing is using the Shanghai Cooperative Organization to project influence and write economic and technological standards in Central Asia, putting Moscow’s traditional influence and geo-strategic goals at risk. Chinese hackers targeted Russia recently with a specialized malware that allows remote access and self-destructs after its’ mission is finished. Despite claims of greater partnership between Moscow and Beijing, both are far from an effective military and political alliance, with underlying tensions over whether Beijing will pursue their own goals at Moscow’s expense and who would be in the junior position in any such alliance. The BRI and SCO are being used by Beijing to increase clout in Central Asia, and Moscow is attempting to thread a path that keeps Russian influence without being encircled and vassalized by Beijing.  

While Beijing might propose a multi-national coalition or utilization of the SCO, Beijing’s own actions telegraph a willingness to use said institutions to further geo-political ends at the expense of allies. If Beijing tries to rally neighbors to take on militants in Afghanistan, those neighbors each have a reason to not commit to fighting militants. Beijing will either have to commit to forces on the ground in Afghanistan or somehow convince those neighbors to send troops and take on active military roles in country.  The former poses a risk to prestige and drawing Beijing into the same trap other major powers faced, the latter requires fundamental changes to Beijing’s foreign policy and getting involved in the domestic affairs of other nations overtly. 

Conclusion

Beijing is making the same mistakes prior nations have made in Afghanistan. First, Beijing is undermining Kabul’s ability to fight the Taliban while making deals with the Taliban. Second, Beijing is trying to promote China as a peacemaker in Afghanistan’s conflict. Third, Beijing seems to be trusting the Taliban. Fourth, Beijing’s policies domestically against Muslim Uighurs is making them a target internationally for Jihadists, including those active in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Now conflict will likely happen with either a total Taliban victory or Afghan civil war. In an Afghan civil war, the Taliban and remnants of the government will be unable to stop foreign insurgents from coming to the country and setting up for attacks on neighbors. Yet in the case of Taliban victory, the Taliban takes control of the country entirely and goes back to their old ways. There is no indication that the Taliban has improved socially, and their goal is at odds with Beijing’s- the establishment of an Emirate following the model the Taliban attempted in the 1990s. The rank and file will likely promote closer ties to Al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups who would seek haven in Afghanistan. Once ready, they launch attacks in Xinjiang, requiring Beijing to respond.

In either case, if Beijing does not respond, domestic security and legitimacy of the CCP are at risk. Yet if Beijing gets involved, they risk being trapped in Afghanistan fighting an insurgency. Unlike a war with Taiwan, or in the South China Seas, or India, this would be a war of necessity as Afghanistan is both the gateway to Central and South Asia, and shares a land border with China. If the Taliban take control or if there is a civil war, China becomes vulnerable to terrorist attacks that would threaten the CCP’s legitimacy at home and economic and political interests in Central Asia. Unlike the USA, China will always have the risks associated with an unstable Afghanistan. Yet Beijing’s actions are ensuring their ambitions will be on a collision course with the Taliban.   

If the Taliban were to moderate, it would pose a risk for the Taliban as an organization- either rank and file break off and form their own groups or defect to rivals. That in turn poses a threat to the Taliban’s hold on power and could escalate into civil war if enough defect to rivals. These are the same fighters that the Taliban traditionally used to enforce decrees in cities and to fight rival warlords. This organizational threat will play into the hands of insurgents coming into Afghanistan and incentivize Taliban leadership to maintain ambiguity on their policy stances even as their militias impose policies that violate Taliban promises to the international community.

Lastly, there is probably not much appetite for the larger international community to engage militarily against the Taliban in retaliation for violated promises. Most nations will probably leave Afghanistan to the Taliban and raise only threats of sanctions or other non-military means of punishment. Yet this won’t mean much to the Taliban, as it allowed both domestic atrocities against the Afghan people and provided haven to Al Qaeda and Jihadist insurgents back in the 1990s.

For China and the CCP, this poses a serious problem. The Taliban may take them up on offers of infrastructure development and raw resource extraction, but the Taliban’s ultimate goal is the establishment of their Emirate, one based on their ideological and religious views. The CCP’s Belt and Road Initiative may offer the Taliban money, but they will choose their Emirate over foreign economic integration and this means that the CCP has to deal with an ideology that is at odds with the vision of the CCP for the region.

Their would-be allies in the region also have cause to distrust coalitions to fight the Taliban. The CCP tends to pursue goals through dual purpose initiatives and activities. Nations that border Afghanistan will see the insurgents as a threat, but they also see risks in following Beijing’s lead, such as territorial losses in Tajikistan or facing domestic chaos in Pakistan. While all can agree on the threat posed by insurgents, there is little trust that Beijing won’t use chaos in Afghanistan to advance their own agenda in Central and South Asia at the expense of Afghanistan and their neighbors.

Beijing cannot expect the USA or the international community to get involved militarily, and due to the shared border and ambitions of the CCP, Beijing will have no choice but to take the lead in any future military conflict in Afghanistan. Its not a conflict they want, but it is one they would have no choice but to engage with.     

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