A Pivot to Asia


May 31, 2016

In the news:

One month after Guantanamo detainee, Obaidullah, went before the Periodic Review Board, the Pentagon has decided to release him. Obaidullah arrived at Guantanamo in 2002 after US special forces captured him and was charged with “conspiracy and providing material support for terror.” After having his charges dismissed five years ago, he will finally be released on the conditions that the release will follow “appropriate security assurances and integration support.”

Belgian police have detained four more people, suspected of belonging to a terrorist group, on Wednesday after searching houses in Antwerp. All four individuals have been charged, and are suspected to have attempted to recruit individuals to travel to Syria and Libya.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian fighter pilot Nadia Savchenko returned to Ukraine after Vladimir Putin pardoned her. Savchenko, who spent two years in detention in Russia, was exchanged for two Russian soldiers that Ukrainian troops captured fighting in eastern Ukraine.

An Australian law firm has filed a compensation claim on behalf of the victims, and 33 next of kin, of flight MH17. The claim comes after the Dutch Safety Board investigating the crash concluded in its final report that the aircraft was downed by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile.

Earlier this month, British special forces destroyed an ISIS suicide truck in Libya. Amidst fear that ISIS is exploiting the current instability in Libya, the UK is training Libyan security forces to boost their national security. Libyan authorities are also expected to ask the British in the next few days to send a navy warship into Libyan waters to block vessels smuggling migrants and weapons.

A report has surfaced that alleges South Sudanese government soldiers killed, tortured, detained and raped civilians in and around the town of Wau, a city in northwestern South Sudan. The attack is alleged to have occurred before a transitional coalition government was formed last moth.

President Obama announced that the United States will lift its arms embargo on Vietnam, which was previously conditioned upon Vietnam improving its human rights record. Human rights advocates remain critical of the decision since it comes at a time of rising tensions in the dispute over territory in the South China Sea. In response to the lifting of the arms embargo, China said it hopes the strengthening of US-Vietnam relations “will be conducive to regional peace and stability.”

On Friday, President Obama travelled to Hiroshima, Japan, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit the city since the U.S. dropped the atom bomb there nearly 71 years ago. Though President Obama did not apologize for the U.S. decision to drop the bomb, he did underscore existing risks and the importance of working towards realizing “a world free of nuclear weapons” in a speech given at the Hiroshima Memorial.

North Korean leader Kim Jun Un proposed military talks with South Korea. South Korea dismissed this proposal as insincere and stated it is not the time to begin a dialogue with North Korea.

A violent extremist group in the Philippines affiliated with ISIS, Abu Sayyaf, released a final video last week showing three hostages pleading for help. One hostage has already been murdered, and the remaining three are being held on an over six million dollar ransom each.

Taliban leader Mullah Makhtar Mansour, who routinely targeted US personnel and troops in Pakistan, was killed in a US airstrike in Pakistan last week. This drone strike may further strain US-Pakistan relations since the Pakistani authorities were not notified until after the strike. Pakistan is claiming the US violated its sovereignty.

In Syria, ISIS claimed responsibility for attacks carried out on the country’s Mediterranean coast killing nearly 150 people on Monday. The same day ISIS also claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing in Aden, Yemen that killed 40 and injured 60 Yemeni army recruits. Meanwhile, the Yemen peace talks are making progress, according to the UN News Centre.

Syrian rebels threaten to breach an already shaky ceasefire if government troops do not agree to halt an offensive in the suburbs of Damascus, northern Aleppo, and Idlib province within 48 hours.

Fellujah and Raqqa, both currently ISIS strongholds, are on the verge of being liberated. Coalition forces are working to liberate Fellujah while the battle for Raqqa is currently confined to liberating only the north of the city. Meanwhile, there is great concern over the civilian populations remaining in the cities. In Fellujah, 50,000 civilians still remain, and coalition aircraft have been dropping leaflets in Raqqa urging remaining civilians to flee the city.

In an effort to secure its border with Afghanistan from the threat of ISIS, Tehran is partnering with the Taliban, a long-time enemy of Iran. The U.S. recognizes Iran’s ambition to fight ISIS affiliates within Afghanistan, but is concerned that the weapons and money being provided to the Taliban elements may be used against the U.S.

Around the web:

The foggy numbers of Obama’s wars and non-wars. The Obama administration plans to soon release statistics on the number of militants and noncombatant civilians US forces have killed since 2009. The long-awaited statistics will cover areas where the US executes airstrikes, but does not officially consider itself at war.

Effects of Child Soldiering. Justice in Conflict’s recent symposium on the prosecution of child soldiers sheds light on the International Criminal Court case against Dominic Ongwen. Ongwen, who argues that he lacked individual criminal responsibility, was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (“LRA”) when he was nine years old, and fought for the LRA for roughly thirty years.

Jus ad Bellum in Japan’s National Security Law. Craig Martin discusses on Opinion Juris the recent revisions to Japan’s national security laws and the interaction—and possible clash—of these new laws and Japan’s Constitution.

The Pentagon Spends Indiscriminately to, Ahem, ‘Fight Terrorism’. Sarah Mulnick and Colby Goodman consider the expansion of Pentagon-funded aid since 9/11 to foreign security forces for counterterrorism efforts around the world.

The Price of Perpetual War. David Barno and Nora Bensahel, in an article for War On The Rocks, discuss the effects on the U.S. after being at war continuously for over a decade.

On the blog:

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