Archive for October, 2021

China and the Taliban’s Afghanistan Restart Trade — and it’s Nuts.

FILE - An Afghan man prepares pine nuts for sell at his shop in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Pine nuts, now a staple of Sino-Afghan trade,  being prepared in Kabul. (Reuters)

45 tons of pine nuts have been flown out of Kabul bound for Chinese markets on Halloween day — the first ‘official’ re-opening of trade between the two countries, marking an important development in the relations between the two nations.

China and Afghanistan, just like pretty much every nation and Afghanistan right now — have an interesting relationship. Still unwilling to state in an official capacity its stance on recognizing the Taliban’s renewed hold on the country, China has still allowed for warmer relations for a myriad of reasons.

The Taliban is hoping for this behavior to continue. Bilal Karimi, a Taliban government spokesman, told VOA on Sunday that the shipment of pine nuts was symbolic in nature, “hop[ing] the commercial activity will continue and boost our trade ties with China.” One can only infer that China will slowly increase the amount of bilateral trade deals with the country as time goes on, still with a careful eye on the global environment towards the Taliban’s government, and toward itself.

Wang Yu, the Chinese ambassador to Kabul in 2018 named the trade, calling it the “pine nut air corridor.” He stated in an official briefing on Sunday: “The little pine nuts bring happiness to Afghan people and good taste to Chinese people … [an] important bond of friendship between our two countries.” How quaint for an industry contract that was projected to see China buying $2 billion dollars over the next five years.

Eyeballing yet again bilateral trade as a stabilizing tool with the fundamentalist nation — China is playing its cards safe and ‘apolitical’ in light of NATO’s departure from the nation after 20 years of war. China even met with Taliban leaders in Qatar’s capital to discuss future bilateral relations just this past week — causing an additional $6 million dollars of humanitarian aid to be announced on top of the $30 million already pledged by the PRC. The US, holding still $10 billion in frozen assets from Afghanistan, has announced $144 million dollars in aid to the country, focusing on the humanitarian crisis created by the Taliban’s takeover and subsequent freezing of typical trade and diplomatic relations.

Other countries want China to go further. Iran has been pushing for China to strike a deal with Afghanistan utilizing its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), its massive infrastructure and trade plan to restructure global trade routes and supply chains around China. Many of it’s previous ‘clients’ have been developing countries, (not, of course, mentioning its predatory practices of oft-described debt traps with these nations, compounded with projects that have been stuck in limbo for over a decade in some cases.)

China’s counter to Afghanistan isn’t just economic development or bilateral trade, however. Its development of a new military base on Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan is showing that its worries surrounding the Taliban’s penchant for harboring terror groups and civil unrest aren’t going to purely be met with peaceful solutions.

This rhetoric and action from the PRC surrounding the Islamist nation goes to show the changing security dynamic in central Asia. China is wary, but open to continue business as usual, under new management.

– Liam



China increases coal imports from Russia

China has been increasing imports of coal they have been receiving from Russia. China has been greatly increasing  the amount of coal it has been importing lately. This coal has been coming from Russia and Indonesia. It is important to note that back in 2019 Australia provided 38% of the thermal coal for China but now the imports from Australia is at 0%. There has been an unofficial ban on Australia coal since late 2020.

I think this will lead to Russia having greater influence over China. The interdependency of their two economies is growing. This will lead to Russia and China probably cooperating with each other more. Australia and China  may continue to distance from each other further which may cause Australia to become closer to America.


Iran to Resume Nuclear Talks with 6 Nations by end of November

The Deputy Minister of the Foreign Ministry of Iran tweeted this afternoon that Iran would be resuming talks with 6 states by the end of November. These talks had begun again in April following the election of President Biden and his approach, the talks are now resuming following the election of Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi. Iran is coming into this conversation with the perspective of only complying should the US release Iran from its economic restrictions. These include the freezing of multiple assets in many foreign banks, as well as large sanctions on the oil sector of the country. The foreign minister of Iran said recently “America’s return to the deal does not matter to us. What is important is that the outcome of talks be in Iran’s favor”

I think that this is thoroughly interesting and will be intriguing to see what comes of these talks and the response that the administration takes. While Iran has been consistent with their demands, I think it will be interesting to see the leeway they give to get their economic benefits back. The restrictions that are on Iran right now, while they have allowed Iran to grow their nuclear program even with the restrictions, are crippling the Iran economy and if they aren’t released, will be detrimental to the long run development of Iran.






Who and What is the Global Health Security Agenda?

The Global Health Security Agenda is an organization that was created in 2014. It was created in response to the global threat that infectious diseases constitute in our increasingly interconnected world, ( About GHSA, para 1). GHSAs main priority is to battle and prevent infectious diseases from spreading from one country to another. The 6th global health security agenda ministerial meeting which met on November 18-20, 2020 with their overarching theme being “bridging cooperative action for global health security.” The United States is also a part of this organization.

This particular organization is crucial in today’s world for health security around the world. The GHSA has 70 countries that are currently a part of. There are 70 countries involved in this organization, which leads to multiple countries working together and creating stronger bonds in the time of a health crisis. Another key factor in these countries working with the GHSA organization is that if other countries are working on preventing the spread of infectious diseases, then it leads to others following by example. It also would help to protect citizens from entering and exiting countries to bring infectious diseases with them.  

However, after reading that their mission statement is about preventing infectious disease, one must think about, did their efforts fail because we are currently in an infectious disease pandemic? The GHSA did leave a statement about the pandemic stating: “Because of the work of GHSA, we have more information than in any previous outbreak about which countries have the most prepared systems, and where the international community needs to direct assistance,” (GHSA Newsletter, para. 4). I am truthfully not too sure they could have done much more to prevent a worldwide pandemic. Their efforts were present and still are in combating this pandemic. We can only hope that there are even more preventive measures in the future. 

Olivia Lewis


Global Health Security Agenda

COVID-19 Chair’s Statement: What is the role of GHSA2024 in this pandemic?

Israel Designates Palestinian NGOs as Terrorist organizations

During the week of October 18, 2021, Israel declared that 6 Palestinian NGOs are terrorist organizations. The Israelis claim that the 6 groups, most of which appear to have received international funding and support, are working for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).  The majority of the international community seems to have received this as another attack on human rights. However, I do not think there will be lasting repercussions for the Israelis, and the terrorist labeling may stick. This could be partly because the United States has designated the PFLP as a terrorist organization since 1997. By linking the NGOs to an existing terrorist organization, the Israelis may convince the US to agree with them on their designation. In addition, although the Department of State spokesperson claimed that he had no knowledge before the Israeli announcement and that the administration takes human rights seriously, he also said that the department would reach out to the Israelis for more information. Given that the US has backed the Israelis through numerous human rights violations claims and the US strategic interest in the region, it is unlikely the US will deviate from that pattern of behavior. Instead, it is highly likely that there will be no action taken against Israel, and the next big news story will overshadow this one.


Analysis: Israel Designates 6 PFLP-linked NGOs as Terrorist Organizations



Reports from United States say Leader of Al Qaeda was Killed in Syria

Al Qaeda leader le ader Abdul Hamid al-Matar was reported dead after a drone strike unfolded in Syria. With this news, it means that this terrorist organization will be disrupted with elements like plotting future attacks. This is not only important for the United States but the United States allies as well. The timeline of this drone strike comes just two days after there was an attack on a United States outpost in the southern part of Syria. The United States explains that the drone strike was a response to the attack in southern Syria. It is very important that the United States stays very proactive when dealing with such terrorist groups. It is important that we still recognize threats from these types of organizations and stand ready in defense and on the attack if need be.

The National Guard’s Response to Proposed Policy Changes for Sexual Assault in the Military

Senator Gillibrand’s legislation has met due to criticism from different military branches due to the perceived overbearing nature of this bill. The National Guard specifically denounces this legislation because the requirements are believed to overload the military system with new alterations and ought not to apply to this branch of the armed services. Specifically, Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, the National Guard Bureau chief, proclaims that these changes would largely not impact the National Guard because it “operates in a non-federal status for 95% of the time”. It is additionally believed that these alterations will cause additional breaches on the National Guard’s use of command authority in dealing with sexual and other misconduct in the National Guard. Interestingly, Senator Gillibrand’s approach to this issue directly aims at utilizing a more comprehensive approach to military sexual assault, seeing that the chain of command approach has yet to successfully diminish cases of assault in the military.

-Keegan H Fredrick

Clash Between National and Militia Forces Kills Tens of People in Somalia

This past weekend, at least 30 people were killed and over 100 were injured following intensified fighting in the Guriceel district of Galmudug, which is a state in central Somalia. The fighting was between the Somali National Army and a militia group called Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a (ASWJ). People on both sides of the conflict were injured and killed. In the past, Somali national forces and ASWJ were allies in the fight against al-Shabaab, but in recent months significant tensions have arisen between the two groups. ASWJ accuses the Somali government of not doing enough to fight al Shabaab, while the Somali government accuses ASWJ of acting without its permission. In an attempt to take advantage of the chaos caused by the conflict, Al Shabaab militants hit a Galmudug airport with mortars on Saturday night.

My blog post from three weeks ago also examined the initial clash between Somali national forces and the ASWJ, when the Somali govenrnment orchestrated a “preemptive attack” against ASWJ. The clash from this past weekend indicates that the conflict between the two groups is escalating, which has negative implications for the security situation in Somalia. As I stated in my previous post, this conflict reflects the fact that it is not sustainable for the Somali government to rely on militia forces in their fight against al Shabaab. While militia groups are also interested in reducing the power of al Shabaab, they have their own interests and goals and will not continue to align themselves with the Somali government forever. AWSJ has clearly lost faith in the idea that the Somali government can effectively counter al Shabaab, which indicates that the government’s influence over the country is weakening. In addition, the conflict between these two groups serves as an opprotunity for al Shabaab. Al Shabaab’s attack on a Galmudug ariport over the weekend shows that they are willing and able to take advantage of internal conficts within Somalia.

Anna Bedal

Russian and Chinese Warships Circled Japan in Joint Exercise

In a joint exercise, Russia and China managed to have warships do a near complete circle around Japan’s main island. There were 5 warships from each country in this exercise. Russia’s defense Ministry has claimed that the exercise was to ensure peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region. The article claimed that the Japanese government may increase military spending to counter China’s recent aggressive actions.

I think that this will likely make Japan mad at China and Russia. Japan will likely attempt to become closer to Taiwan and America in response to this action. America may try to build up more of a military presence in Japan to counter Russian aggression. America may try to respond to this joint drill by trying to increase activity in the nearby area.

Japan’s Ruling Party, LDP, Promise to Increase Defense Budget

Following the lead of Prime Minister Kishida, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party has promised to increase the country’s defense budget to over 2% of the GDP. Currently, Japan’s defense spending is limited to under 1% of the country’s GDP, since former Prime Minister Miki introduced a cap of 1% of the nation’s GDP. Also, the party has said that they are considering giving Japan the ability to attack enemy bases. This is mostly due to security concerns from North Korea and China. Many of the other political parties wish to develop the nation’s defense capability and to focus more attention on Japan’s alliance with the US. 

From what I understand, these promises from the LDP are in response to concerns with China and North Korea. North Korea has been developing missiles that are able to reach Japan and its allies, and China has been more aggressive about its claim of ownership of Japan’s Senkaku islands. If Japan’s tension with these two countries continues to rise, I wouldn’t be surprised if these promises became reality.


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