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BLACKWATER USA | DAILY BRIEF


Afghanistan

  • The Taliban issued an order obliging all private companies and aid organizations operating in Afghanistan to register with it—ostensibly out of concern for activities the Taliban deems against the “national interest,” but more likely because of a broader desire to exert control in the country. A Reuters article pasted below has more.

  • Two Afghan soldiers were injured when an army helicopter made a hard landing in southern Helmand. In some past cases of ANSF “hard landings,” the Taliban believably claimed to have shot down the helicopters in question. The Taliban doesn’t appear to have claimed this one as a shootdown yet, but it is active in southern Helmand and I wouldn’t be surprised if it had fired at the aircraft.

  • The Taliban accused the Afghan government of recapturing Taliban prisoners it had freed under the U.S.-Taliban deal. Government officials say it’s not true, although National Security Advisor Javid Faisal said some released prisoners had returned to violence—which would appear to justify their rearrests.

  • A new UN report identified 1,282 civilian deaths in Afghanistan in the first half of 2020—including 340 children, and in addition to 2,176 civilians who were injured but not killed. That’s a 13% decline in civilian deaths since the same period in 2019. The UN blamed the Taliban and Islamic State for 58% of the casualties (killed and injured), and said government forces were responsible for another 23% of them.

Iran

  • Iran moved its fake Nimitz-class aircraft carrier—essentially a replica carrier ship that Iran uses for drills, complete with fake fighter jets—into the Strait of Hormuz, which suggests Iran is preparing for a new round of live-fire exercises. Tensions are high over an incident last week in which a U.S. F-15 intercepted a Mahan Air passenger flight over Syria.

China

  • After the deadline for the U.S. to withdraw from its consulate in Chengdu had passed, Chinese authorities took control of the building—just as U.S. authorities entered the Chinese consulate in Houston after that deadline had passed.

Russia

  • Large rallies continued in Russia’s Far East over the weekend, and grew to include tens of thousands of people. Demonstrators were initially frustrated with the arrest of a popular governor, but their gripes have evolved into a more general discontent with Moscow.

North Korea

  • South Korea, which keeps vigilant track of COVID-19 cases within its borders, says the man who reportedly “re-defected” to the North last week and was accused of bringing coronavirus into North Korea with him was not actually infected with coronavirus at all. It’s possible the North had already been trying to conceal a widespread existing outbreak, and is just using the man as a scapegoat.

Sudan

  • There’s been an uptick in violence in Darfur, Sudan, sending thousands fleeing and leaving at least 80 people dead (likely far more). The root cause appears to be simmering tensions between former residents who fled the region during earlier rounds of violence and recently returned, and the people who took their land over while they were gone. The government is sending in troops.

Venezuela

  • Venezuelan National Guardsmen shot dead a man who was protesting fuel shortages at a gas station in eastern Anzoategui state. That’s the second killing of a fuel protester in the last few weeks.

Other News

  • Israel said it fired on up to four Hezbollah militants who entered the country through the Golan Heights, forcing the invaders back. Israel is on high alert for a wider-scale incursion from Lebanon or the Golan Heights because Hezbollah had threatened one if Israel killed any of its fighters in Syria, which it did last week.

Taliban Push to Control Private Companies, Aid Agencies in Afghanistan (Reuters)

The Taliban wants all private companies and aid organisations operating in Afghanistan to register with the hardline Islamists, officials from the group said.

The order was issued last week and comes as the Afghan government and Taliban officials prepare to engage in intra-Afghan talks aimed at ending the fighting in the war-torn country.

The negotiations, slated to be held in the Qatari capital Doha, are part of a February deal between the United States and the Taliban to end the nearly two-decades-old war. Washington is trying to iron out difficulties and bring the Taliban and the Afghan government to the table.

The militant group has been running a armed rebellion since it was toppled from power in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001 and has regained control over thousands of check-points across a broad swathe of the country, with commanders overseeing distribution of foreign aid.

A spokesman for the group said its officials had noticed that some companies and NGOs, including national and international organisations, were pursuing activities that they deemed were against the national interest.

"We will not allow any agency to work against the interest of our beloved Afghanistan, Islam...so we want to register all of them to have information about their activities," said the spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid.

Foreign aid forms the backbone of Afghanistan's economy and over 2,200 NGOs operate in the country providing education, health and financial support to the poor.

Last year, the Taliban briefly banned the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Health Organization from operating in the country and accused them of conducting "suspicious" activities during vaccination campaigns.

Afghan government officials said the Taliban was making desperate attempts to assert control over government functions.

"Taliban is a terrorist group. They have no right to force companies, NGOs to register themselves with them," said Dawa Khan Minapal, deputy spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

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