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Blackwater USA – Daily Brief

Afghanistan

  • Pres. Trump dropped the bombshell that he’d been planning separate secret meetings with Pres. Ghani and Taliban leaders at Camp David to happen today—but cancelled them after the Taliban bragged about being responsible for the recent attack that killed an American soldier (and a Romanian one) in Kabul.
  • Trump went further, and definitively called off peace negotiations with the Taliban altogether—or rather, called them off “for now,” per SecState Pompeo).
  • The Taliban made it clear that they’re ready to sign an agreement and/or return to the negotiating table, but warned that if Trump stuck to the cancellation, it would “increase [America’s] financial and human losses.”
  • A pro-government slanted ToloNews survey found that 76% of the 25,500 Afghans polled agreed with Trump’s decision to call off negotiations, and Ghani’s government tried to capture the opportunity to chastise the Taliban for its attacks.
  • That said, Pres. Ghani is probably still the most upset of all over the cancellation, because he was likely counting on this meeting to boost his leadership credibility ahead of elections on Sep. 28th…it must have been embarrassing for him to see it cancelled just because Trump didn’t want to meet the Taliban.
  • On the other hand, several media reports pointed out how awkward it would’ve been to host the Taliban leadership on U.S. soil just days before the anniversary of 9/11—but perhaps that’s just the art of the deal.

Iran

  • The head of the IAEA is in Tehran for talks to try to salvage what’s left of the 2015 nuclear deal.

DRC

  • I’ve pasted below a bizarre Economist article on DRC’s Kimbanguists, who comprise 10% of the Congolese population, and celebrate terrible news like the Ebola outbreak or massacres of civilian villages as a sign that salvation is imminent. They also enjoy nine-hour church services every Sunday, which tells you something about their tolerance for pain.

Venezuela

  • Apparently the latest season of “Jack Ryan” features a nuclear weapon-hungry Venezuela as the lead antagonist, which led a leftist TV critic to say that “watching this trailer is like snorting 100% pure John Bolton.”
  • On a more serious note, Pres. Maduro said he wouldn’t resume negotiations with the opposition until Pres. Guaido gets more assertive about Venezuela’s claim to 60% of Guyana (specifically, the valuable 60%). It seems like Maduro is trying to score a political point with Venezuelans there: most maps have drawn that segment as part of Guyana for decades.

Hong Kong

  • Protesters in Hong Kong started singing the Star-Spangled Banner, waving American flags, and calling on the U.S. to “resist Beijing, liberate Hong Kong.” That might’ve been inspired by SecDef Esper’s first major speech, given yesterday, in which he called for more efforts to counter Russian and Chinese influence—perhaps the protesters saw that as an opportunity to slide between China and the U.S.

Kimbanguists believe Congo’s suffering is a sign of the apocalypse (Economist)

But they aren’t too concerned

There is a reason that men with machetes keep killing people in Congo and that Ebola has infected close to 3,000 people there. These are signs that the end is nigh, claims Reverend Eddy Kybantu of the Kimbanguist church, a branch of Christianity. Simon Kimbangu, who founded the church in 1921, said Congo would endure pestilence, poverty and war shortly before the end of time—and salvation for believers. “Papa Kimbangu is preparing us, he knows it’s not long,” says Mr Kybantu.

Such dismal beliefs do not put off Kimbanguists. They make up about 10% of Congo’s 85m-100m people. The church says it has 22m members worldwide. Today it is run by the founder’s grandson, Simon Kimbangu Kiangani, who lives in the hilltop town of Nkamba—or “New Jerusalem”, as Kimbanguists call it. The younger Mr Kimbangu, like his grandfather, is believed to be the human form of the Holy Spirit, able to cure the sick, raise the dead and see the future.

Kimbanguists adhere to an ascetic lifestyle. Sex before marriage is banned, as are alcohol, tobacco and homosexuality. But this isn’t simple puritanism. Kimbanguists are also forbidden from sleeping naked, in case God calls on them at night. Pork is prohibited because pigs are vessels for evil spirits. Kimbanguists must pray eight times a day, fast twice a week and attend a nine-hour church service every Sunday.

The elder Kimbangu was sent by God “to save the black man”, says Seros Muyisa, a believer. But the saviour’s timing wasn’t great. When thousands of people flocked to Nkamba to catch a glimpse of Kimbangu performing miracles, the Belgians, who controlled Congo at the time, felt threatened. He was found guilty of undermining public security and died in prison 30 years later.

At a Kimbanguist service in Goma the congregation sits barefoot, wearing immaculate green and white uniforms. The colours symbolise hope and peace. Your correspondent is handed a green scarf, to cover her hair, and a wraparound skirt, because women are not supposed to wear trousers to church. A pastor stands at a green pulpit, booming out prayers through a microphone. A brass band plays at regular intervals. The apocalypse may be coming, but all seems remarkably calm.