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About 700,000 Afghans Have Lost Their Jobs Since Taliban Takeover, Says UN Report

1 min read

An estimated 700,000 people have lost their jobs in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, “with the agriculture, civil service, and construction sectors the most severely affected,” according to the latest report by the UN special rapporteur to Afghanistan.

The report, which covers developments in the country between July and December 2022, stated that around two-thirds of households in Afghanistan have acknowledged “difficulties in meeting basic food and non-food needs.”

“[M]assive job losses, business closures, and the reluctance of foreign investors to engage in the [country’s] economy” have had catastrophic impacts on the lives of millions of Afghans, the report said.

Afghanistan’s worsening economic decline—which stood at around 30 to 35 percent in 2021-2022—has further worsened the humanitarian crisis. “This crisis has been exacerbated by the unintended consequences of political cautiousness and overcompliance with [U.S.-imposed] sanctions, despite the humanitarian exemptions afforded by the Security Council,” the 19-page report that was submitted to the UN said.

The report further stated that an “estimated 18.9 million people are experiencing acute food insecurity, a number which is expected to rise to 20 million, and over 90 percent of Afghans are suffering from some form of food insecurity, with single-parent female-headed households and children being disproportionately affected.”

The report also raised concerns about targeted killings of members of the former Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, allegedly by the Taliban. Similar apprehensions have been raised in another report that claims that the Taliban has gained access to biometric data, which they are utilizing in tracking down Afghans who formerly worked with the U.S. government.

Credit Line: from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

West Africa Peoples Organization Calls for Greater Unity as France Announces Military Reorganization

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The West Africa Peoples Organization (WAPO), an “anti-imperialist network that promotes regional unity across West Africa,” has welcomed a proposal for greater collaboration between Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea, and has called for coordination and planning of production, trade, infrastructure, economic development, and defense among these countries after the withdrawal of French military forces from the Sahel region.

This collaboration between these countries was prompted after the prime minister of Mali’s transitional government, Choguel Kokalla Maïga, concluded a visit to neighboring Burkina Faso on February 26, and foreign ministers of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea proposed a “Bamako-Conakry-Ouagadougou” strategic axis for enhanced cooperation a few weeks before the visit.

Welcoming this visit, WAPO said in a statement, “We recognize in it [the initiative] the undying spirit of Pan-Africanism that moved the founders of modern Africa even after three generations of neo-colonial repression.” WAPO also said that there was a need to unite “to create the capacity to defend our territories and interests.”

On February 18, Burkina Faso officially marked an end to France’s military presence on its territory while in 2022, French troops withdrew from Mali after a nearly decade-long deployment in the country.

France’s withdrawal from Mali and Burkina Faso took place in the aftermath of successive military coups since 2020, amid rising public unrest against France’s military presence even as armed conflict has expanded in the region.

“The anger in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea is [also] a result of France establishing their regional economic policy. The reserves of the three countries [as well as many other Francophone countries] are kept in France. France also retains the right to confiscate their national financial reserves,” Kafui Kan-Senaya, the secretary-general of WAPO and the research secretary of the Socialist Movement of Ghana, told Peoples Dispatch.

from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

Xi Jinping unanimously elected Chinese president, PRC CMC chairman

1 min read

Xi Jinping, newly elected president of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and chairman of the Central Military Commission of the PRC, made a public pledge of allegiance to the Constitution at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday.

United Nations: Sri Lanka urges to trickle corruption

1 min read

“In Sri Lanka, debilitating debt, and economic crisis, have sharply restricted people’s access to fundamental economic and social rights. Recovery policies will need to redress inequalities, and invest in social protections and other levers of economic resilience,” Global update to the UN Human Rights Council by Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said today.

“They should also tackle underlying issues of corruption, transparency and accountability in governance, as well as entrenched impunity. The reliance on draconian security laws, as well as the harassment and surveillance of civil society and victims, must end,” he said.

“My Office remains committed to supporting a genuine and comprehensive approach to transitional justice,” he added.

New International Sanctions Announced on Myanmar’s Junta as Airstrikes, Arrests Keep Country on Edge

1 min read

On February 20, the European Union announced a sixth round of sanctions on nine individuals and seven entities in military-ruled Myanmar in light of the “continuing escalation of violence, grave human rights violations and threats to the peace, security and stability in Myanmar/Burma” two years after the February 1, 2021, coup. The sanctions entail travel bans and asset freezes of influential businessmen, politicians, and military officers.

According to the EU, some of the targeted individuals were “involved in the process of death sentences and execution of four democracy activists in July 2022, and in Kachin State, where they oversaw air strikes, massacres, raids, arson and the use of human shields committed by the military.”

The EU said in its statement: “All hostilities must stop immediately. The military authorities must fully respect international humanitarian law, and put an end to the indiscriminate use of force.”

The announcement comes after democratic advocacy group Justice for Myanmar on January 25 reported on the networks established between foreign countries, intergovernmental organizations, and financial institutions that have been aiding the junta forces in acquiring “funds, resources, and power.”

Meanwhile, the conflict in Myanmar is intensifying. According to a report in Mizzima, the military government carried out 57 airstrikes in January, and 652 airstrikes since the coup in February 2021. More than 288 individuals, mostly civilians, have died, and 377 have been severely injured as a result of these strikes since the coup.

from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

Moscow opens world’s longest subway line

1 min read

Moscow on Wednesday opened the 70-km Big Circle Line (BCL), the longest subway line in the world.

The metro line was constructed from 2011 to 2022. The first section of the BCL opened in 2018, and another 20-km section, which is the longest in the history of the capital’s metro, was launched in December 2021.

The BCL has 31 stations, with 24 of those providing 47 interchanges to existing and future stations of the capital’s metro.

Maksim Liksutov, deputy mayor of Moscow for transport, said that the BCL will serve as an impetus to the capital’s development for decades to come, adding that it would help decrease the traffic flow on the city’s highways by up to 15 percent, and would decongest metro lines by up to 25 percent.

Why Nepal Denied Entry to CIA Chief?

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In a rare move, the Nepal government last week withheld permission for a visit to the country by CIA Director William J Burns, ostensibly on the grounds that the timing of the trip was “not so conducive”.

It is learnt Burns returned home from Sri Lanka, the first leg of his South Asia trip, after the Nepal government conveyed to the US Embassy in Kathmandu that given the political developments, including the impending Presidential election, permission for the visit was being withheld.

The decision was conveyed after Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda informally consulted some senior Cabinet colleagues including Deputy Prime Ministers and senior bureaucrats from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to information provided to the Nepal government, Burns was to fly from Sri Lanka in a special C-17 Globemaster III along with several officials on February 15 for an 18-hour stay in Kathmandu.

Another two aircraft with some vehicles and “unspecified equipment” meant for the US Embassy were also being brought – this, it is learnt, was notified to the host government.

Visits by top officials of external intelligence agencies, mainly from neighbours India and China, formally or informally, are not very uncommon.

In October 2020, Samant Goel, chief of India’s R&AW, met K P Oli, the then Prime Minister. Details of the discussion were never made public. Oli’s opponents still use that meeting as a political stick to target him.

A senior minister, among those consulted by Prachanda on the proposed trip by the CIA chief, said a visit at such short notice would create a dangerous precedent, and the Prime Minister decided to go “along with our view”.

But some like Keshav Prasad Bhattarai, an expert on security matters and international affairs, think that blocking Burns may prove to be a “blunder”.

High-level visits from the US are now routine but have caused heartburns in China which fears that enhanced US activities in Nepal are part of a destabilisation strategy targeting Beijing.

China openly opposed Nepal Parliament’s ratification of the Millenium Challenge Corporation Compact, a $500-million grant from the US, in February last year. The US also wants Nepal to play a larger role in Indo-Pacific strategy.

Last week, Prime Minister Prachanda said Nepal ratified the MCC since it was a developmental project, and “we did not allow them to come with weapons”.

© The Indian Express (P) Ltd

Exclusive: US-India Move to Establish Joint Military Base in Trincomalee?

3 mins read

by Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor

Victoria Nuland, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the United States, has made a second visit to Sri Lanka within a few months. Prior to her visit, she met with key officials in the Indian government, including Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar, to discuss a strategic plan for the region.

“During her visit Nuland suggested to the Sri Lankan government in the strongest possible terms to establish a US-Indian joint military base in Trincomalee, which will serve as a critical component in protecting US and Asia-Pacific interests and countering Chinese development activities in the region,” informed sources reaffirmed.

According to a source, “the officials also discussed implementing the 13th amendment as quickly as possible, as it will be a catalyst for achieving the objectives of the strategic plan. The 13th amendment aims to devolve power to the provincial councils in Sri Lanka while diluting the centre.”

The establishment of the military base is expected to “enhance security and stability in the region, and promote greater cooperation between the United States, India, and Sri Lanka,” a top diplomatic source says under the conditions of anonymity.

We attempted to reach out to a Colombo government official for an official statement, but no one was willing to provide one in an official capacity.

Who is this Nuland?

Victoria Nuland, a career diplomat and former US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, played a significant role in the United States’ policy towards Ukraine in the early 2010s. Nuland’s “war game” in Ukraine, and how it was exposed, provides a compelling case study on the intersection of foreign policy and geopolitical gamesmanship.

In 2014, the world watched as Ukraine erupted in conflict, with Russia annexing Crimea and pro-Russian separatists seizing control of parts of Eastern Ukraine. However, the origins of the crisis go back several years. In 2013, the Ukrainian government under President Yanukovych was poised to sign an association agreement with the European Union, signaling a shift towards closer ties with the West. This decision was vehemently opposed by Russia, which saw Ukraine as part of its sphere of influence.

It was during this time that Nuland became heavily involved in US policy towards Ukraine. Leaked audio recordings in early 2014 revealed that Nuland had discussed who should form Ukraine’s next government with the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. In the conversation, she expressed her preference for Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a pro-Western politician who eventually became Prime Minister following Yanukovych’s ouster.

The leaked recordings caused a significant stir, with some commentators accusing the US of meddling in Ukraine’s affairs and undermining its sovereignty. Nuland defended her actions, stating that the US was simply supporting a democratic, pro-European movement in Ukraine.

However, Nuland’s actions did not stop there. She also supported the anti-government protests that erupted in Ukraine in late 2013 and early 2014, providing various forms of assistance to the demonstrators. This assistance reportedly included training, resources, and funding for civil society groups.

US Military bases surrounding China [ Source: Base Nation]

Nuland as a Warmonger in Ukraine

Nuland’s involvement in Ukraine became emblematic of the wider geopolitical struggle between Russia and the West. Her support for the protesters was seen as evidence of the US’s desire to encroach on Russia’s sphere of influence, while her advocacy for Yatsenyuk’s appointment was seen as evidence of the US’s intention to shape Ukraine’s political future.

Ultimately, the Ukrainian crisis resulted in significant geopolitical fallout. The conflict in Eastern Ukraine has claimed thousands of lives and strained relations between Russia and the West to breaking point. The role that Nuland played in the crisis, and the exposure of her actions, provides a unique insight into the complex, often hidden world of foreign policy and geopolitical gamesmanship.

Victoria Nuland’s “war game” in Ukraine and how it was exposed serves as an important case study in foreign policy and geopolitical strategy. The leaked recordings of her conversations with the US Ambassador to Ukraine revealed the extent of US involvement in Ukraine and sparked accusations of meddling. The Ukrainian crisis remains a key flashpoint in international relations, and Nuland’s role in it highlights the complexity and delicacy of geopolitical manoeuvring.

According to a top diplomatic source, Victoria Nuland’s efforts to reshape South Asian affairs in favour of the United States could have negative consequences. The source expressed concern that her actions may potentially disrupt the longstanding state of peace in the region, which Sri Lanka has worked to maintain.

Major earthquakes kill over a thousand across Türkiye, Syria

1 min read

A major earthquake of magnitude 7.7 struck southern Türkiye and northwestern Syria, killing more than a thousand people as buildings collapsed and triggering a search for survivors trapped in the rubble.

Türkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) said that the 7.7 magnitude quake struck at 4:17 am (0117 GMT) and was centred in Pazarcik district of Kahramanmaras province on Monday.

AFAD updated the intensity of the quake from 7.4 to 7.7 magnitude at 0955 GMT. 

At least 912 people have died in Türkiye and 5,383 others injured, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

At least 326 deaths were also reported in Syria, according to regime’s media citing the health ministry. Meanwhile, 147 people were reported killed in rebel-held areas. More than 600 people were also reported injured. 

The quake in Türkiye occurred at a depth of 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) and was followed by 78 aftershocks, according to Oktay, including two of magnitude 6.6 and 6.5 that struck southeastern Gaziantep province.

Click here to read the latest developments

China reaffirms the Support for Sri Lanka

2 mins read

China is the first official bilateral creditor to have taken the initiative to announce debt extension to Sri Lanka. This speaks to China’s sincerity and action to support Sri Lanka’s effort to achieve debt sustainability, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning yesterday told the reporters at Regular Press Conference.

The complete statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry is as follows;

Shenzhen TV: It is learned that the Export-Import Bank of China has provided Sri Lanka a letter as required, offering an extension on the debt service due in the next two years and saying it would like to have friendly consultation with Sri Lanka regarding medium and long-term debt treatment. Can you confirm this?

Mao Ning: On January 19, the Export-Import Bank of China, as the official bilateral creditor, provided a financing support document to the Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies of Sri Lanka, saying the Bank is going to provide an extension on the debt service due in 2022 and 2023, which means Sri Lanka will not have to repay the principal and interest due of the Bank’s loans during the above-mentioned period, so as to help relieve Sri Lanka’s short-term debt repayment pressure; meanwhile, the Bank would like to have friendly consultation with Sri Lanka regarding medium- and long-term debt treatment in this window period; and the Bank will make best efforts to contribute to the debt sustainability of Sri Lanka. The Bank also noted that it will support Sri Lanka in its loan application to the IMF; in the meantime, the Bank will continuously call on commercial creditors (including the International Sovereign Bondholders) to provide debt treatment in an equally comparable manner, and encourage multilateral creditors to do their utmost to make corresponding contributions.

As we have said several times, as a friendly neighbor and true friend, China has been providing assistance for Sri Lanka’s economic and social development to the best of our capabilities. The financing support document is aimed at combining an “immediate contingency measure” and “medium- and long-term debt treatment” to rapidly, effectively and truly resolve Sri Lanka’s debt issue. As far as I have learned, China is the first official bilateral creditor to have taken the initiative to announce debt extension to Sri Lanka. This speaks to China’s sincerity and action to support Sri Lanka’s effort to achieve debt sustainability.

China calls on all other creditors of Sri Lanka, especially multilateral creditors, to take synchronized, similar steps and give effective, strong support to Sri Lanka to help the country emerge from its default status at an early date and eventually work out an arrangement for Sri Lanka to achieve medium- and long-term debt sustainability. China also calls on the IMF to take into full consideration the urgency of the situation in Sri Lanka and provide loan support as soon as possible to relieve the country’s liquidity strain.

Going forward, China will continue to support relevant financial institutions in actively working out the debt treatment. We will work with relevant countries and international financial institutions to jointly play a positive role in helping Sri Lanka navigate the situation, ease its debt burden and achieve sustainable development.

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