The World Today for November 13, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

AFRICA

Whack-a-Mole

Early this month, for the first time ever, the United States launched airstrikes against the Islamic State in Somalia.

A few days later, the United Nations issued a report saying that around 200 jihadists had joined the Islamic State in Puntland, a semi-independent region in the country. “Even a few hundred armed fighters could destabilize the whole region,” an unnamed diplomat told Reuters.

On Saturday, Nov. 11, an American drone killed a handful of terrorists from al-Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked extremist group in Somalia, the Associated Press reported. In October, al-Shabab militants were responsible for a truck bombing in the Somali capital of Mogadishu that killed more than 350 people.

Meanwhile, terror in North and West Africa remains a major concern, too, among American officials who are still struggling over the deaths of four Green Berets in Niger last month, as well as local leaders who lack the resources to confront jihadism alone.

Militants who called themselves Islamic State Greater Sahara were responsible for the killings, Newsweek wrote.

“The big challenge is the instability in Libya,” Kalla Moutari, Niger’s minister of defense, told the Washington Post. “Fighters and weapons from Libya continue to come to this part of the world because there are no controls over there.”

It was not supposed to be this way.

Almost a year ago, Foreign Policy argued that the Islamic State was on the ropes in Africa. Al Qaeda, meanwhile, was securing its place on the continent. But Al Qaeda was a weaker organization that didn’t control much of Iraq and Syria. If Al Qaeda was beating out the Islamic State, one could argue that was a welcome result of a divide-and-conquer strategy.

But now – as the Islamic State has collapsed in most of Iraq and Syria – the terrorists have metastasized again in Africa, explained USA Today.

The Cipher Brief, an international news outlet devoted to security intelligence, cited “the lack of strong central governance in many countries” as providing fertile ground for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a Mali-based terrorist organization.

“With these governments unable to hold territory or provide basic social services to many in need, AQIM has been able hunker down in ungoverned spaces,” the website wrote.

Clearly the same could be said for Somalia and Libya – countries where years of civil war have flared in failed states.

As the US bombs East Africa, France is corralling an international army in West Africa to combat terror. The question is whether those efforts are treating the symptom or cause of these developments.

Terror, like nature, abhors a vacuum. The global community might need to consider how to fill Africa’s empty spaces in the long-term.

WANT TO KNOW

POLAND

Out of the Woodwork

Around 60,000 white nationalists marched in Warsaw on Saturday, chanting religious and racist slogans in a show of force coinciding with Poland’s independence day.

Demonstrators chanted “God, honor, country” and “Pure Poland, white Poland” during the march, which included far-right agitators from elsewhere in Europe, including English Defense League founder Tommy Robinson from the UK and Forza Nuova founder Roberto Fiore from Italy, the BBC reported.

A participant told the channel the march was “important because religion is important in our country and we don’t want Islamization, of Europe or especially Poland.”

Supporters of Poland’s governing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party took part in the annual march, and Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak called the event a “beautiful sight.”

Around 2,000 others turned out for an “anti-fascist” counter-protest, the BBC said.

President Andrzej Duda hosted a separate official ceremony and other events also commemorated Poland’s Independence Day, which marks the country regaining independence 123 years after it was carved up by Tsarist Russia, Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

YEMEN

By Land or Sea

As Islamic State militants regained control of their last stronghold in Syria from Iranian-backed troops, Houthi rebels fighting the internationally recognized government in Yemen threatened to attack warships and oil tankers if a Saudi blockade of Yemeni ports is not lifted.

The war between the Iran-backed Houthis and Saudi-backed government is perhaps the hottest flashpoint in the struggle for influence between the Shiite and Sunni nations, one of which is allied with Moscow and the other with Washington.

Saudi Arabia accused the Houthis of firing a ballistic missile towards Riyadh airport on Nov. 4 and responded by blockading Yemeni ports in a move to stop arms from reaching the rebels. But the United Nations said the move could cause a famine in Yemen that could kill millions of people, Reuters reported.

The potential disruption to shipping if the Houthis make good on their threats could also be severe.

Yemen lies beside the southern mouth of the Red Sea, one of the most important trade routes in the world for oil tankers on the way from the Middle East through the Suez Canal to Europe.

INDIA

Pea Soup

United Airlines cancelled its flights from Newark to New Delhi due to the noxious air in the Indian capital – where poisonous particulate matter has soared to more than double the level deemed “hazardous” by the World Health Organization.

Apart from the health risks, smog and fog have resulted in long airport delays, due to visibility dropping to less than 200 feet, India’s NDTV reported.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of Delhi, called the capital a “gas chamber” on Sunday, as levels of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns – called PM2.5 – rose to 676 by mid-afternoon, Bloomberg reported. The WHO guidelines suggest levels above 300 are “hazardous.”

Though it’s been blocked so far this year, the Delhi government will again appeal to the National Green Tribunal on applying an “odd-even” system designed to keep many vehicles off the roads. Amid arguments that crop-burning is a bigger problem, Kejriwal wants odd-even, but with exemptions for motorcycles, women drivers and parents making school-runs. The NGT has said it’s all or nothing.

DISCOVERIES

Cheeky Cockatoos

Australia’s government-built broadband network already takes a lot of flak for its slow speeds. But now it’s facing another performance problem: cockatoos chewing on its cables.

The $36 billion infrastructure project is preyed upon by the yellow-crested cockatoo, known for its sharp beak and its ravenous appetite for everything from fruit to window frames.

The Australian National Broadband Network (NBN) has already spent nearly $61,500 to repair damage caused by the pesky birds – and they expect that outrageous bill to go up, Reuters reported.

A majority of the damage has occurred in the country’s grain-producing regions, leaving researchers to wonder if the cables’ wood-like color and appearance have something to do with the birds’ taste.

“Unfortunately, they’ve developed a liking for our cables…these birds are unstoppable when in a swarm,” wrote NBN project manager Chedryian Bresland in a blog post on the company’s website.

The cockatoos’ feasting habits only add insult to injury: The NBN is constantly criticized for its poor performance, and customer complaints have risen 160 percent this year alone.

Newly installed protective casings could resolve the bird problem. In the meantime, many hope cockatoos don’t meet the same fate as another beloved pest, the kangaroo – hundreds of which are set to be slaughtered.

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