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Blackwater USA – Daily Brief

Afghanistan

  • A couple good recaps, timed for the anniversary of 9/11, counted the costs of the Afghan war. Both are pasted below.
    • A Forbes infographic charted out Brown University’s estimate for the $975 billion cost of the U.S. war in Afghanistan by year from 2001 to 2019.
    • The Post had a brief set of stats on the U.S. military human costs of the war: 775,000 U.S. troops have served at least one deployment in Afghanistan, over 28,000 have deployed there more than five times, around 2,400 have died, and another 20,000 have been wounded.
  • First VP Dostum said he and his backers were ready to take on the Taliban in northern Afghanistan, if the U.S. and Afghan government would just give him a chance, and promised he “will not create militias” (I’m not sure a guy like Dostum knows any other way). Dostum has been pitching his plan to defeat the Taliban for years, but Pres. Ghani—a rival—hasn’t been listening, and certainly won’t start now, ahead of an election.
  • The Taliban claimed a suicide bombing that killed four at an ANSF special forces base in southern Kabul. Local sources say there was also a gun battle at the scene, but the MoD denied that.
  • A Pakistani army officer told VOA that Pakistan felt compelled to remove some of its troops on the Afghan border and shift them to an increasingly tense Kashmir, but he’s probably just trying to find a way to blame India for Pakistan’s security failures.

Venezuela

  • In response to Venezuela’s large anti-invasion drills at the Colombian border; Colombia, the U.S., and nine other countries invoked the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance—which obligates all signatories to respond to military aggression against one of them (in this case, Venezuelan military aggression against Colombia).
    • The Post says that invocation and Venezuela’s rising support for drug-linked militias in Colombia are bad signs that the two neighbors are edging closer to real war.
    • Pres. Trump tweeted that famously hawkish former NSA Bolton “was holding me back” on Venezuela—not the other way around—so we might see some more U.S. moves against Maduro soon.
  • Reuters reports that Venezuelan government officials and opposition activists have been holding weekly secret talks on economic topics though the Boston Group (“a forum created in the early 2000s by U.S. congressmen seeking to stimulate dialogue between Venezuelan legislators of opposing political persuasions”)—even though their Norway-led official dialogue remains stalled.
  • Venezuela’s former military intelligence chief Hugo Carvajal had his first hearing in a Spanish court, and told the judge the U.S. was inventing the drug charges in its request to extradite him. It had looked like Carvajal was willing to cooperate with the U.S., but yesterday he told the judge: “I feel I am threatened in both countries (United States and Venezuela)…I don’t trust the U.S. judiciary after what they did to me.” So maybe not.
  • Pres. Maduro said he would skip the annual UN General Assembly in New York, but didn’t give a good reason why. His VP and Foreign Minister will go in his place.

Guyana / Belt & Road Initiative

  • Dialogo (which isn’t on my radar, and seems a bit leftist) published an article on Chinese Belt & Road Investment in Guyana. It included a useful summary of top Chinese projects, but layered in some liberal warnings about debt diplomacy and environmental degradation. Anyway, it’s pasted below.

Mexico

  • It sounds like the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday to let Pres. Trump’s strict asylum rule go into effect was more significant news than I thought at first read. This is the rule that requires migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to first ask for it in the country they travel through, and the Mexican government complained about having the burden pushed onto Mexico.

RSS

  • Sudanese PM Abdalla Hamdock chose his “second home” of Juba for his first foreign visit. He met with Pres. Kiir, and told reporters “the sky is the limit for this relationship [between Sudan and South Sudan].” Hamdock will also meet with opposition leaders: analysts think he’s trying to get the two sides to keep advancing their power-sharing deal so Sudan won’t have to worry about an unstable southern neighbor anymore, and can move on to economic reform.

DRC

  • A train derailed near Mayibarida, Tanganyika province in DRC, killing up to 50. As often in DRC, the train was overloaded with stowaways clinging to the sides of the cars, and they were crushed when three cars fell on their sides.

Guyana, the Target of Chinese Companies (Dialogo-Americas)

A large infrastructure project for land and maritime communication routes in Latin America and the Caribbean might put Guyana in debt.

As part of its ambitious geopolitical plan, China intends to build a road in Guyana to connect the city of Lethem, on the Brazilian border, with Linden, located 108 kilometers from Guyana’s capital, Georgetown. The plan also envisions a deep-water port on the north coast to receive large vessels.

Although authorities are waiting for the findings of an Inter-American Development Bank study to start construction on the two projects, “There are plans for China to provide the capital required and to conduct the construction work,” said the digital magazine Diálogo Chino in its article: China Extends its Reach to Guyana.

The road connection will reduce transport times to Brazil, China’s largest trading partner in the region, by providing a shorter exit to the sea to the Panama Canal. Chinese companies will benefit by receiving raw materials quickly and cheaply. The plan estimates that the project’s design will be ready in October 2019.

Guyana is one of the poorest countries in South America, but it harbors important reserves of bauxite, gold, the 17 rare-earth elements used to create cutting-edge technology, and “vast oil reserves discovered not long ago, which could make it the richest country in the hemisphere in a few years, and potentially the richest country in the world,” says news agency BBC Mundo.

Belt and Road

Since 2017, Guyana has been working with the Chinese government to gain access to a $50 billion special fund to execute the projects, as well as the new bridge at Demerara port, the modernization of Cheddi Jagan International Airport, and the development of the Amaila Falls hydroelectric plant, the Guyana Chronicle newspaper reported. Cooperation between both countries continues to grow; in June 2018, Guyana and China signed an agreement on the Belt and Road Initiative.

This initiative is China’s expansion plan,  officially named the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

“Western Hemisphere nations that have already signed an agreement on the Chinese project expect to get more infrastructure investment,” said Margaret Myers, Asia and Latin America program director at Inter-America Dialogue, in the organization’s British digital magazine The Dialogue. According to the digital publication, since 2002, Chinese construction companies and banks have been expressing an interest in taking part in about 150 transport infrastructure projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, and almost half of those projects started some phase of construction in 2018.

“China’s final goal is to have a relevant weight on an international scale and increase its influence by creating commercial and economic dependency of other countries,” Yadira Gálvez Salvador, a scholar specializing in defense and security at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told Diálogo. “Beijing doesn’t care what kind of government it’s dealing with; it’s just maintaining relations for their geopolitical, economic, military, and intelligence interests.”

China is the top source of funding for Guyana and other Latin American countries, but it faces serious questions about the social and environmental consequences, as well as the construction of infrastructure megaprojects with inadequate planning and low-quality materials in the different communities where it operates.

“According to our recent experience with Chinese investment, Guyana always ended up with the short end of the stick. In the works conducted so far, we have seen an invasion of projects and complaints of corruption, little use of local labor, and no skills transfer,” said Abena Rockcliffe, senior journalist at the Guyanese paper Kaieteur News. “The country’s authorities don’t provide enough information about the terms and conditions of Chinese loans and investment.”

Land and maritime connectivity projects might endanger the Green State Development Strategy: Vision 2040, Guyana’s national plan for sustainable development, which seeks to preserve the country’s natural resources, their sustainable management, and the transition to renewable energy. According to the United Nations, rainforests cover three quarters of the country. Developing high-impact projects through the Guyanese jungle would leave “the burden of razed rainforests” in its wake, says the World Rainforest Movement on its website.

How 775,000 U.S. troops fought in one war: Afghanistan military deployments by the numbers (WaPo)

Wednesday marks the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, which led to a long legacy of war. That was thrown into sharp relief this week when President Trump abruptly announced Saturday that he was canceling months of negotiations with the Taliban, even as he aims to fulfill a promise of ending America’s “endless wars.”

The U.S. war in Afghanistan has led to the deaths of about 2,400 American service members, including 16 in combat action this year. Some 20,000 more have been wounded, many grievously.

But there’s another set of revealing numbers about the war that exposes its sprawling nature. Data provided by the Pentagon shows that more than 775,000 U.S. service members have deployed to Afghanistan at least once. The numbers detail the story of a war that has persisted for an entire generation.

Among the key details:

— About half of all U.S. veterans of Afghanistan served one deployment there, but many served more. At least 28,267 U.S. troops have deployed there five or more times.

— The Army, the Pentagon’s largest service, has deployed the most troops to Afghanistan. More than 491,500 soldiers have served there, including active-duty forces, Army reservists and National Guardsmen.

— The Air Force, whose presence in Afghanistan has persisted even as the overall number of troops shrank, has deployed the second most, with about 123,000 airmen involved.

— The Marine Corps deployed about 20,000 service members at a time during the height of the war in 2010 and 2011. Overall, more than 114,000 Marines deployed.

— Each military service has a legacy there, including the Coast Guard. More than 100 Coasties have served in the conflict.

The Annual Cost Of The War In Afghanistan Since 2001 (Forbes)

America’s longest war, the conflict in Afghanistan, has cost $975 billion when 2019 estimates are factored in according to website The Balance. Their data is based on research from Brown University and it makes the war in Afghanistan second only to the inflation-adjusted $4.1 trillion the United States spent during the Second World War in terms of overall cost. That’s despite the fact that American families have not suffered a noticeable economic impact from the conflict, even though there is no draft in place as well as no tax to fund it.

Between 2001 and 2012, the cost of the war gradually climbed, particularly after President Obama announced a troop surge soon after taking office. Costs reached their highest level in 2011 at $107 billion, the same year Navy SEALS killed Osama Bin Laden in a raid in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. In the years since, both troop levels and costs declined significantly as American forces transitioned to a training and mentoring role for the Afghan military. By 2018, the conflict had an annual bill of approximately $52 billion.

Despite the drawdown of offensive operations on the ground, the number of U.S. bombs dropped on the country has increased significantly. As the Taliban continued to retake ground and amid the emergence of ISIS in some corners of the country, the U.S. dropped more bombs on Afghanistan in 2018 than ever before. According to U.S. Central Command data, American warplanes dropped more than 7,300 munitions on Afghanistan last year, compared to 4,361 in 2017 and just 947 in 2015.

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