Taliban hydro scheme raises tension with Pakistan

The Taliban regime’s announcement of plans for construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Kunar River is escalating tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The 480-kilometer Kunar River originates in the Hindu Kush mountains of central Afghanistan and merges with the Kabul River, which in turn flows into Pakistan to join with the Indus. The proposed reservoir and use of the Kunar’s waters for irrigation within Afghanistan would mean less water for agriculture in Pakistan, officials protest. One Pakistani provincial official said that a unilateral decision by the Taliban to build the dam “will be considered a hostile act against Pakistan.” Jan Achakzai, information minister for the border province of Balochistan, warned of “severe consequences,” including “potential conflict.” (Photo: Peretz Partensky via Wikimedia Commons)

Southeast Asia

China seeks ceasefire in Burma border zone

China’s government announced that it has mediated a short-term ceasefire to the conflict between the Burmese junta and rebel armies of ethnic peoples in the northeastern region near the Chinese border. The conflict has been escalating since the Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) launched Operation 1027 in Shan state in late October. The rebel armies have joined as a self-declared Three Brotherhood Alliance seeking control of Burma’s northeast. None of the parties to the conflict have commented on the supposed ceasefire. China, a major backer of the junta, continues to conduct live-fire military exercises on its side of the frontier. (Map: PCL)

South Asia

Podcast: the struggle in Northeast India

In Episode 178 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the new eruption of ethnic violence in Northeast India’s state of Manipur, which was the scene of far deadlier inter-communal clashes last month. The spark was the current bid by the Meitei people to become a “scheduled tribe,” granting them access to resource-rich forestlands. This is opposed by the Kuki and Naga peoples, whose tribes are already “scheduled”—but are nonetheless being targeted for eviction from Manipur’s forestlands under the guise of a crackdown on opium cultivation. The Kuki and Naga leadership perceive a land-grab for their ancestral forest territory by the Meitei—the dominant group in Manipur, who already control the best agricultural land in the state’s central Imphal Valley. The Kuki (including their Jewish sub-group, the Bnei Menashe) and Naga have long waged insurgencies seeking territorial autonomy, or even independence from India. And both their traditional territories extend across the border into Burma (where the Kuki are known as the Chin), pointing to potential convergence of the armed conflicts either side of the international line. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo of Naga festival: Yves Picq via Wikimedia Commons)


Afghanistan: air-strikes spike in anti-opium drive

US forces in Afghanistan have dropped more munitions in the first three months of 2018 than during the same time period in 2011—a time widely considered the height of the war. The spike in bombing comes after years of drawing down US troops across the country's remote rural areas—and therefore relies increasingly on technical rather than human intelligence. Figures released by US Air Forces Central Command indicate 1,186 "munitions expended by aircraft" in January, February and March this year. In 2011, during those same months, the military documented 1,083 weapons released from both manned and unmanned aircraft. The increase in "kinetic air operations" is part of a strategy to degrade the Taliban’s finances by targeting drug labs, which the insurgents are believed to tax. (Photo: USAF)


Afghanistan opium production hits new record

The latest stats from the UN's annual Afghanistan Opium Survey are in, and the news is grim. Opium production in the war-torn country jumped nearly 87% in 2017, to record levels—an estimated 9,000 metric tons. Areas under poppy cultivation rose by 63%, reaching a record 328,000 hectares and boosting the number of Afghanistan's 34 provinces now cultivating opium from 21 to 24. Since overthrowing the Taliban in 2001, the US has spent nearly $7 billion to combat opium—to spectacularly counter-productive results. (Photo: VOA)


Horrific prison massacre as Kelly does Mexico

On his trip to Mexico, US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly toured Guerrero state to witness opium eradication operations. That very night, a riot broke out at the prison in the state's biggest city, violence-torn Acapulco. The explosion of violence ended with at least 28 inmates dead—many of them mutilated and several beheaded.

Greater Middle East

Kurdish guerillas behind Turkey’s hashish trade?

Turkish government claims that Kurdish rebels in the country's east are profiting from the hashish trade point to an integrated counter-insurgency and drug enforcement campaign.

Southeast Asia

Duterte threatens to kill human rights activists

Accused of carrying out 3,000 extrajudicial executions, the Philippines' ultra-hardline President Duterte now threatens to kill human rights activists who dare to complain about it.


Taliban versus ISIS in Afghan opium wars

With Afghanistan's opium crop breaking all records, a three-way war is developing over the cultivation zones, as government forces, the Taliban and ISIS battle for control.


Mexico: paramilitary terror stalks Chihuahua

A wave of paramilitary terror grips the Sierra Tarahumara in northern Mexico's Chihuahua state, as the Sinaloa Cartel seeks control over the opium and cannabis cultivation zone.