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Blackwater USA | Daily Brief

Coming Up This Week

  • The Swedish Academy will announce this year’s Nobel Prize winners today, and award the prizes on Thursday. Pres. Trump thinks he deserves one “for a lot of things,” but also complained that the system is rigged against him.
  • The U.S. and China resume trade talks on Thursday and Friday in Washington. Analysts at the Eurasian Group say there’s a 40% chance of an interim trade deal, and a 60% chance that Pres. Trump will at least postpone further tariffs.
  • We’re certain to hear more from this impeachment inquiry this week. House Dems will call former U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was removed in the spring (and doesn’t particularly like Pres. Trump).
  • The U.S. Supreme Court returns from summer recess this week, and will take on three cases about gay and transgender rights.

Syria

  • After months of bickering and a phone call between Presidents Trump and Erdogan to set up an in-person meeting next month, the White House essentially handed northern Syria over to Turkey, which has been threatening to attack the Kurdish groups the U.S. has partnered with against IS there.
  • The initial announcement said only that Turkey will take custody of IS fighters in Kurdish detention, and that U.S. troops “will not support or be involved in the operation,” with no further information about where that would leave the Kurds…probably at great risk.

Brexit

  • PM Johnson’s government said it would file for yet another extension to Brexit if it couldn’t come up with a workable plan by Oct. 19th. That’s an awkward reversal for someone who campaigned on a do-or-die race to meet the Oct. 31st deadline—and who insisted just yesterday that he wouldn’t delay Brexit beyond it.

Hong Kong

  • There was an odd scene during yesterday’s protests in Hong Kong: a red taxi plowed into a crowd of demonstrators, who then started beating a man—perhaps the driver. Other protesters stepped in to stop the beating, and three—including the beaten man—are in the hospital in serious condition.

North Korea

  • North Korea called the latest round of failed negotiations with the U.S. “sickening,” and said it doubted that the U.S. could change its current “hostile policy” enough in two weeks to merit the resumption of talks then (when the U.S. had aimed for new talks). It gave the U.S. a deadline of the end of the year—though would probably be receptive to entering new talks even after that, if sanctions bite hard enough.
  • A Japanese Fisheries Agency patrol vessel collided with an illegal North Korean fishing boat in the Japanese EEZ, pitching 20 North Korean fishermen overboard. Japan has sent ships and aircraft to the site to help search for survivors.

Iraq

  • Anti-government protests continue in Iraq, and a newspaper linked to Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei encouraged Iraqis to blame the U.S., and storm and seize the U.S. Embassy.
  • The UN condemned the deaths of over 100 demonstrators during the past week of protests, and called on security forces to end the violence.

Afghanistan

  • SIGAR published a great report on lessons learned from Afghanistan (and Colombia and Somalia) on the right ways to reintegrate former combatants. You can read the full report here or browse its section highlights here; its overall key findings are pasted below.
  • Eleven important Taliban prisoners were freed from the joint Afghan-U.S. base at Bagram, in exchange for three Indian prisoners the Taliban had kept after capturing them last year in Baghlan, where they were working on a power generation project.
  • Pres. Ghani fired the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman for saying the Taliban’s meetings in Pakistan were a step towards peace, rather than inappropriate encouragement of terrorists (which is Ghani’s position).

Kashmir

  • Thousands of residents of Pakistan-held Kashmir began a march towards India to protest Pres. Modi’s controversial change of Kashmir’s status—and concurrent crackdown.

Other News

  • A UN peacekeeper was killed—and four others wounded—when their vehicle ran over a mine in northern Mali.

Reintegration of Ex-Combatants: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan (SIGAR)

Key Report Findings

1 The absence of a comprehensive political settlement or peace agreement was a key factor in the failure of prior Afghan reintegration programs that targeted Taliban fighters.

2 Early Afghan government and international efforts to demobilize and reintegrate state-aligned militias failed in part because U.S. forces were simultaneously partnered with the militias for security and other services, empowering commanders and groups that were supposed to be disbanding.

3 Other important factors in the failure of Afghan reintegration programs were insecurity and threats facing program participants, a weak economy offering few legal economic opportunities, and limited government capacity for program implementation.

4 The U.S. government saw prior reintegration efforts targeting the Taliban primarily as a tool to fracture and weaken the insurgency, which undermined the potential for those efforts to promote peace and reconciliation.

5 Prior reintegration programs did not succeed in fracturing or weakening the Taliban to any substantial degree, and no fi­rm evidence exists that the programs pressured Taliban leadership to pursue peace negotiations.

6 In the past, coalition and Afghan forces were unable to provide adequate security for former combatants and their families once the combatant had participated in a reintegration program. Ex-combatants and their families faced risks of retaliatory attacks from the Taliban, Afghan security forces, and individuals or groups in the communities into which they were reintegrating.

7 Prior monitoring and evaluation systems were inadequate for measuring the outcomes or effectiveness of reintegration programs in Afghanistan.

8 None of the four main reintegration programs entailed a long-term effort to assist former combatants to transition to a sustainable alternative livelihood. Bene­fits were mainly confi­ned to short-term transition assistance packages and vocational training programs that did not match the former combatants’ needs or local economic realities.

9 While local Afghan security agreements temporarily reduced violence, they did not create conditions conducive to reintegration.

10 The current environment of ongoing conflict is not conducive to a successful reintegration program.

11 Even today, the U.S. government has no lead agency or of­fice for issues concerning the reintegration of ex-combatants. In Afghanistan, this has contributed to a lack of clarity about reintegration goals and their relation to reconciliation.

12 Globally, the factors that contribute to an individual ex-combatant’s reintegration into society are poorly understood. There have been few attempts to gather and analyze the data needed to identify which interventions contribute to successful reintegration.

13 Even in Colombia, a country with greater economic resources and experience with reintegration programming than Afghanistan, reintegration has proved an elusive goal. Despite Colombia’s years of experience and well-established administrative structures for reintegration, the Colombian government has struggled to reintegrate thousands of demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) ­fighters.

14 Reintegration efforts in Somalia demonstrate the severe limitations—related to vetting, protection of former combatants, and monitoring and evaluation—of trying to implement a program in the midst of an insurgency.