Africa
fact

Inauspicious start for Chad peace talks

Chad’s junta opened delayed peace talks with rebel and opposition groups in Qatar. But things got off to a bad start when one of the main rebel outfits–the Front for Change & Concord in Chad (FACT)–walked out amid confusion over Doha’s role as a mediator. Chad was plunged into uncertainty last April when long-time ruler Idriss Déby was killed while commanding troops combating a FACT offensive. Power was then seized by Déby’s son, Mahamat Idriss Déby, who outlined a transition plan. The Doha talks are considered a precursor to a national dialogue that the younger Déby is organizing before planned elections. But after decades of rebellion and repression, things are unlikely to proceed smoothly. Just last month a phone conversation surfaced in which Timan Erdimi, head of the Union of Resistance Forces (UFR), one of the rebel groups present in Doha, discussed plans to oust Déby using the Kremlin-linked mercenary Wagner Group. (Image via Twitter)

Africa
Ouaddai

Chad: protests over Ouaddai sultanate autonomy

At least 14 protesters were killed in Chad’s Ouaddai province, climaxing several days of mounting violence and unrest. Protests broke out in provincial capital Abéché after the central government suspended the powers of Ouaddai’s traditional sultan, Cherif Abdelhadi Mahdi. The appointed prefect of the province is to assume his traditional powers over the ethnic Ouaddai community. The traditional Ouaddai chieftain of the locality of Bani Halba has also had his powers dissolved by decree. The appointed replacements are apparently to be Arabs, exacerbating tensions between the Arab and ethnic Ouaddai communities. Local rights groups say several more were killed by security forces in the days of protest, and are demanding an investigation. The heretofore autonomous sultanate of Dar Ouaddai is a survival of the Wadai Empire, which ruled much of the region from the 15th century through the consolidation of French colonial rule in 1914. (Photo via Twitter)

Afghanistan
hazara massacres

Afghanistan: massacre and cleansing of Hazaras —already

The Shi’ite Hazara people of Afghanistan were targeted for genocide by the Taliban when the fundamentalist militant group was last in power, and Amnesty International now reports that new massacres targeting the ethnicity have already started. Taliban forces unlawfully killed 13 ethnic Hazaras, including a 17-year-old girl, in Daykundi province after members of the security forces of the former government surrendered in August, the Amnesty investigation revealed. Since then, local Hazaras have been forced to flee the area. Residents of Daykundi said that the Taliban ordered them to leave, sometimes giving them only three or four days to pack up and go. Then, after families are gone, Taliban fighters set fire to their homes or blew them up. Many have taken a precarious refuge in Kabul. (Map: Amnesty International)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Pakistan backing Taliban takeover in Afghanistan?

The Taliban announced that they have taken the Panjshir Valley from the incipient National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA). In an audio statement from an undisclosed location, NRFA leader Ahamd Masoud pledged to carry on the fight, and called upon Afghans to launch a national uprising against the Taliban. Another NRFA leader, Fahmi Dashti, was reported killed in the battle for the Valley. News sources in India claimed he met his death in a targeted drone strike launched by Pakistan. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Afghanistan
kabul protest

Afghanistan: Taliban unleash first terror

As the Taliban, now in full control of Kabul, pledge an “inclusive” Afghan government in prepared press statements, deadly repression against anti-Taliban protesters is reported from the eastern city of Jalalabad. The day before Afghanistan’s independence day, protesters took to the streets of Jalalabad waving the black, red and green national flag—and tearing down the white and black Tawhid flag of the Taliban. Witnesses said Taliban fighters fired on protesters indiscriminately, and at least three were killed. On the day that Afghanistan won full independence from Britain in 1919, a similar protest was held in Khost, where social media videos again show Taliban fighters firing on demonstrators. No casualties were reported, but the city has been placed under a 24-hour curfew. A small demonstration by women demanding that their rights be respected was held  outside a police precinct in Kabul. “We want the rights we’ve had for the past 20 years,” signs read.  (Photo via Twitter)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Afghanistan: Taliban seize provincial capitals

Taliban forces have dramatically stepped up their rapid advance across Afghanistan, seizing 11 capitals of the country’s 34 provinces. Herat and Ghazni, a strategic gateway to the national capital Kabul, were the most recent to fall. The northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif is besieged, and India’s military is mobilizing an airlift to evacuate the country’s nationals there. Kandahar, in the Taliban’s southern heartland, is also the scene of heavy fighting, as is Lashkar Gah, capital of adjoining province of that name. Reports of rights violations that “could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity” have emerged from areas under Taliban control. More than 359,000 Afghans have been displaced this year, bringing the total displaced in the country to over 5 million. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Afghanistan
afghan army

Afghanistan: US withdrawal on hold?

With a May 1 deadline for withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan approaching but a final peace deal stalled, the White House is said to be considering an extension beyond this date for removal of its 2,500 troops remaining in the country. “Intra-Afghan” negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul opened in Doha in September, but remain deadlocked over fundamentals of the power-sharing deal—with the Taliban rejecting President Ashraf Ghani’s insistence on remaining in office for the remainder his five-year-term. Predictably, they haven’t even got around to discussing protection of minority and women’s rights, or the role of sharia law in the new order. Meanwhile, civilian casualties are mounting, and the Taliban has just launched a spring offensive. (Photo: Khaama Press)

Iran
Stratofortress

Will strikes on Iran be Trump’s Plan B?

The world is breathing a collective sigh of relief after General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy officially contacted the team of president-elect Joe Biden, marking the Trump administration’s belated initiation of the transition process. But along with the news of Murphy’s capitulation come reports that the US has deployed heavy  bombers to the Middle East, and that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a secret meeting in Saudi Arabia with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Simultaneously, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have conveniently claimed responsibility for a missile attack on a Saudi oil facility in the port of Jeddah. And this all comes just days after the disconcerting news that Trump had gathered his cabinet and advisors for a White House conclave weighing the options for military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities. With his attempted judicial coup failing, Trump’s Plan B could be postponement (read: cancellation) of the presidential transition under pretext of a world crisis of his own making. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Afghanistan
Afghanistan

Will human rights be betrayed in US-Taliban deal?

More than a year of US-Taliban negotiations bore formal fruit with the signing in Doha of what is being called a “peace deal” by Washington’s envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The pact calls for the US to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan in 14 months if the Taliban fulfills its commitments under the agreement. “Intra-Afghan” talks are to follow, with the aim of negotiating a permanent ceasefire. Amnesty International, however, raised concerns about what the  deal could mean for Afghanistan’s women and religious minorities, urging: “Any peace process involving the parties to the conflict in Afghanistan must not ignore the voice of victims.” (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Palestine
Gaza march

Palestinians reject ‘Swindle of the Century’

Trump’s Israel-Palestine “peace” plan (sic), unveiled at the White House in a joint press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu, has been anointed with the very Trumpian epithet “Deal of the Century.” It is actually a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum to the Palestinians to accept the status quo of bantustans, surrender much territory to actual Israeli annexation, give up their long-standing demand for justice for refugees—and call it “peace.” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas predictably responded with “a thousand no’s.” And Palestinians immediately mobilized in outrage, in both the West Bank and Gaza. (Photo: Maan News)

Afghanistan

Trump-Taliban schmooze: don’t call it ‘peace’

The utterly surreal news that Taliban leaders were invited to Camp David—a week before the 9-11 commemoration, no less!—will further fuel the perverse fantasy that Trump is a hippie pacifist. But the supposed “peace” talks with the Taliban completely sidelined Afghanistan’s actual government and civil society alike—and were bitterly protested by Afghan women and their advocates. It was to be a “peace” crafted by genocidal clerical-reactionaries and imperialists, with the actual aim to prosecute a war on their mutual enemy, the ISIS insirgency that has now emerged in the country.  ISIS are now the “bad” (undomesticated) clerical reactionaries, who will not abandon their ambitions to attack the West. This only sends the message (entirely accurate, from the imperial persepctive) that Western lives matter, and Afghan lives do not.  (Photo: Khaama Press)

Central Asia
Uighurs

Uighurs as pawns in the Great Game

In a perverse spectacle, the Trump administration, which is establishing its own incipient concentration camp system for undocumented immigrants, makes a great show of feigning concern with the mass detention of the Uighurs in China’s “re-education camps.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called China’s treatment of the Uighurs the “stain of the century,” and accused Beijing of pressuring countries not to attend a US-hosted conference on religious freedom then opening in Washington. At the conference, Donald Trump actually met at the Oval Office with Jewher Ilham, daughter of the imprisoned Uighur scholar Ilham Tothi. It is hard to fault the Ughurs for being heartened by this international attention, but it is clear that they are being exploited for propaganda purposes. (Photo: Mvslim.com)