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26 Aug 22. New Zealand to withdraw military support for Global Coalition in June 2023. The country will extend support to non‑military workstreams and contribute up to NZ$4m over the next three years. The New Zealand Government has extended additional support for the next phase of the Global Coalition to Defeat Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (D-ISIS).
It comes just days after the US military carried out precision airstrikes against Iran-backed militants in Syria.
The contribution includes a one-year extension of the previous deployment of the New Zealand military’s two Coalition Headquarters personnel in Iraq and Kuwait.
The New Zealand Government first deployed its personnel under the Defeat-ISIS Coalition in 2015. Later in 2020, it was extended until June 2022.
Henare said: “In line with the Coalition’s reconfiguration, New Zealand will continue the deployment of two New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel to [the] Coalition until 30 June 2023, after which we intend to withdraw our military contribution while expanding our support to non‑military workstreams.
“This package of support reaffirms our shared commitment and determination to continue [to] fight against violent extremism and address the longer-term security and humanitarian challenges faced by the Government and people of Iraq.” (Source: army-technology.com)
25 Aug 22. Indonesia reduces projected defence spending for 2023. The Indonesian Ministry of Defense has requested IDR132trn (USD8.8bn) for its national budget allocation in 2023.
The amount requested represents a 1.9% decline from the IDR134.7 trillion defence budget that was allocated in 2022.
These were among the details provided in a recently released Indonesian Ministry of Finance publication that summarised the 2023 budget requests from the different ministries and statutory bodies.
From the sum requested by the defence ministry, IDR35 trillion will be deployed towards modernising the Indonesian National Armed Forces’ main weapon systems, while a further IDR3.6 trillion will be set aside for operating expenses.
In addition, IDR12trn will be allocated towards programmes to increase the professionalism and welfare of the armed forces personnel, the publication noted.
Operations that will be prioritised in 2023 include the Indonesian Navy’s ongoing effort to map the country’s underwater terrain more expansively, and the hardening of defence facilities at Indonesia’s border islands.
26 Aug 22. Sudan: Reshuffle likely reflects fracturing within armed forces, elevating coup threat. On 25 August, Sudan’s military leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced the largest military reshuffle since the 25 October coup, replacing individuals in leadership positions throughout the army. The announcement comes shortly after pro-military civilian factions signed a draft constitutional declaration openly outlining the continued participation of the military in a new government. Al-Burhan has relied upon these bodies to represent military interests after declaring that the military was withdrawing from negotiations on a new government in July. The proposals have been rejected by the primary civilian organisation, the Forces for Freedom and Change, which has been leading protests since the October coup. As such, the reshuffle likely reflects the increasing division within the armed forces as continued protests and mounting calls for a general strike elevate concerns about the viability of the military’s current position. Such divisions are increasing the prospect of military infighting, elevating the potential for another coup and widespread clashes in Sudan. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Aug 22. Strikes Send Clear Message to Iranian-Backed Groups in Syria to Stop Attacks on U.S. Forces. The United States military sent a clear message to Iranian-backed groups attempting to harm Americans based in Syria that their actions must stop, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said today.
“It’s our assessment that these groups are testing and attempting to see how we might respond,” Ryder said in a press availability. “I think, based on the strikes that we have taken, we’ve sent a very loud and clear message and a proportional message, that any threat against our forces who are operating in Syria, or anywhere, will not be tolerated.”
U.S. military forces conducted precision airstrikes in Deir ez-Zor Syria yesterday in response to the August 15 attacks against American forces in Syria, a U.S. Central Command official said. “The U.S. strikes targeted infrastructure facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Army Col. Joe Buccino, the command’s public affairs officer, said.
Officials estimate that four militants were killed and 10 rocket launchers destroyed. “Centcom forces struck at Iran-affiliated militants in the area with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters AC-130 gunships and M-777 artillery,” Ryder said. “Again this was in response to yesterday’s rocket attacks against Mission Support Site Conoco and Mission Support Site Green Village in northeast Syria.”
Ryder said the strikes were appropriate and indicated the U.S. determination “to take all necessary measures to defend our people,” the press secretary said.
President Joe Biden authorized the attacks, according to Centcom officials.
The American forces are in Syria as part of the defeat-ISIS mission under Operation Inherent Resolve. The effort has been remarkably successful. The Islamic State once controlled wide swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq. Working by, with and through local Iraqi and Syrian forces a coalition of more than 90 nations helped drive ISIS from power. Now there are remnants in the region, and the U.S. forces are part of the effort to ensure the group doesn’t reconstitute. (Source: US DoD)
25 Aug 22. In strategy shift, Colombia to suspend air strikes on armed groups. Colombia will suspend aerial bombings targeting illegal armed groups in a bid to avoid collateral damage to civilians and deaths of minors who have been forcibly recruited, Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez said on Thursday. The announcement – which Velasquez said was also a gesture of government willingness to engage in possible talks with armed groups – is a shift in Colombia’s strategy against left-wing guerrillas and drug-trafficking gangs.
The country’s almost six-decade conflict has killed at least 450,000.
Aerial bombardments in recent years by the military have dealt heavy blows to armed groups such as dissidents of the demobilized FARC who reject a 2016 peace deal, the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the organized crime gang Clan del Golfo, killing important leaders.
“The bombings must be suspended. We’re going to evaluate the specific moment in which an absolute guideline can be established, but that is the direction we want to take,” Velasquez told journalists, stressing that minors forcibly recruited by armed groups are victims of violence.
“Military action that is carried out against members of illegal armed groups cannot endanger the lives of these victims,” he added.
Colombia’s armed forces have received criticism in recent years from human rights groups and politicians for bombings that killed such minors.
Colombia’s new leftist president, Gustavo Petro, is pushing a policy of “total peace” to end the conflict with guerrillas and criminal gangs in exchange for legal benefits and reduced sentences.
Such a policy is not weakness on the part of the state, Velasquez said, adding that Colombia’s armed forces and police will continue to fulfill their constitutional roles.
“Peace is not a surrender by the government, it is not a surrender by the armed forces. Peace is a process of collective construction,” he said.
The defense ministry is also evaluating the purchase of a new fleet of combat aircraft to replace its aging Israeli-made Kfir planes, Velasquez said. (Source: Reuters)
25 Aug 22. Syria: Military confrontations will elevate risk of cross-border attacks, physical security threats. Since 24 August, Iran-backed militants reportedly launched two separate rocket attacks in north-eastern Syria. The rockets struck Mission Support Site Conoco and Mission Support Site Green Village, injuring three US service members. The attacks follow US airstrikes on 23 August against sites affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor governorate. The military escalation comes after the Biden administration submitted a formal response to Iran’s comments on the final draft put forward by the EU on a return to the 2015 nuclear deal. However, despite the finalised negotiated agreement, confrontations between the US and Iranian proxies in Syria are unlikely to cease. Additional incidents in the coming days and weeks remain likely. These will possibly spill over into neighbouring Iraq, elevating physical security and miscalculation risks, particularly for Western and US-affiliated personnel and business assets. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Aug 22. Peru: Continued cabinet reshuffle will sustain government instability, socio-economic weakness. On 24 August, President Pedro Castillo reshuffled his cabinet for the second time in less than three weeks amid ongoing corruption scandals. Castillo announced the replacement of the environment and defence ministers, among others. Since taking office, Castillo has named an average of five new ministers a month. The high turnover has directly impacted public spending, dampening investor sentiment and increasing socio-economic health risks in the country. Despite the ministerial changes, corruption allegations continue to plague Castillo’s administration, with six criminal investigations currently taking place against the president. Meanwhile, Castillo’s sister-in-law and wife are both also facing criminal investigations. Government stability risks will therefore remain high in the coming weeks. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Aug 22. Angola: Provisional results reinforce likelihood of MPLA victory, opposition protests. On 25 August, the National Electoral Commission released provisional election results based on a count of 33.16 percent of the votes. They suggested a significant lead for the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which secured 60.65 percent of votes against the opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola’s (UNITA) 33.85 percent. UNITA announced that it has run a parallel count, with UNITA leader Adalberto Costa Junior claiming that his party was leading in the polls by a wide margin. So far, the announcement reflects our assessment that the government has sufficient control of official electoral mechanisms to secure a victory (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 24 August). While voting on 24 August was peaceful, allegations of fraud and the likely announcement of an MPLA victory will act as a flashpoint for protests in the capital Luanda and central Angola. The police will forcibly disperse demonstrations, heightening bystander risks around protest hotspots such Largo da Independencia. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Aug 22. DRC: Protests likely if UN mission redeploys to assist with anti-Ebola measures. On 25 August, the World Bank launched an Ebola vaccination campaign in the north-eastern city of Beni (North Kivu province) after a new case of the virus was confirmed last week. The case was genetically linked to the 2018-2020 outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces which killed around 2,300 people. It is likely that the use of the vaccine will allow the health authorities to contain the virus quickly. They successfully contained a previous outbreak of Ebola in North Kivu between February and May 2021. However, should the virus spread, recent animosity towards the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) may challenge international efforts to support local health efforts. On 18 August, protests in North Kivu prompted MONUSCO to withdraw from Butembo (North Kivu), located around 37 miles (60km) south of Beni. Should MONUSCO attempt to redeploy to support local health measures, protests may target UN and health facilities, threatening NGO staff. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Aug 22. Taiwan proposes large rise in defence spending amid escalating China tensions. Taiwan proposed $19bn in defence spending for next year on Thursday, a double-digit increase on 2022 that includes funds for new fighter jets, weeks after China staged large-scale war games around the island it views as its sovereign territory.
China carried out its largest-ever military exercises around the democratically governed island after a visit this month by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The trip infuriated Beijing, which saw it as an attempt by Washington to interfere in China’s internal affairs.
The overall proposed defence budget by President Tsai Ing-wen’s Cabinet sets a 13.9% year-on-year increase to a record T$586.3bn ($19.41bn).
That includes an additional T$108.3bn in spending for fighter jets and other equipment, as well as other “special funds” for the defence ministry. A statement from the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics did not provide a break down specifics on where the money would go.
The planned defence spending, which is a record high and must be approved by parliament, marks the island’s sixth consecutive year of growth in defence spending since 2017.
The double-digit rise on 2022 marks a sharp increase compared with the island’s defence spending growth in recent years; yearly growth has been below 4% since 2017.
Statistics department minister Chu Tzer-ming said the increase in defence spending will mainly go to operational costs.
“We always give safety and national security the top priority… that’s why (the budget for) operational costs rises greatly,” Chu said, pointing to costs such as fuel and maintenance for aircraft and ships dispatched to counter Chinese military activities near Taiwan.
Excluding the extra budget for military equipment and funds, proposed defence spending represents a 12.9% year-on-year increase, compared with a 20.8% increase in the overall government budget proposed for next year.
That proposed spending accounts for 14.6% of the government’s total spending for next year and is the fourth-largest spending segment, after social welfare and combined spending on education, science and culture, and economic development.
The island last year announced an extra defence budget of $8.69bn by 2026, which came on top of its yearly military spending, mostly on naval weapons, including missiles and warships.
In March, China said it would spend 7.1% more on defence this year, setting the spending figure at 1.45trn yuan ($211.62bn), though many experts suspect that is not the true figure, an assertion the government disputes.
China has been continuing its military activities near Taiwan, though on a reduced scale.
Live-fire drills will take place in a coastal part of China’s Fujian province on Friday and Saturday, just north of the tiny Taiwan-controlled Wuchiu islands in the Taiwan Strait, Fujian authorities said on Wednesday, announcing a no-sail zone.
Tsai has made modernising the armed forces – well-armed but dwarfed by China’s – a priority.
China is spending on advanced equipment, including stealthy fighters and aircraft carriers, which Taiwan is trying to counter by putting more effort into weapons such as missiles that can strike far into its giant neighbour’s territory.
China has not ruled out using force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims, saying that the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island and that only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.
Meeting visiting Japanese academics at her office on Thursday, Tsai reiterated that the determination to protect their sovereignty, freedom and democracy would not change “due to pressure or threats”.
“At the same time, as a responsible member of the international community, Taiwan will not provoke incidents nor escalate conflicts,” Tsai said, in comments made live on her social media pages.
($1 = 30.2080 Taiwan dollars) ($1 = 6.8519 Chinese yuan ) (Source: Google/Reuters)
24 Aug 22. Israel: Nuclear deal would give Iran $100bn to destabilise region. A new nuclear deal between world powers and Iran would allow other nations to avoid sanctions and give Teheran $100 bn a year to destabilise the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on Wednesday. The United States aims to respond soon to a draft accord proposed by the European Union that would restore the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, under which it curbed its disputed uranium enrichment programme in exchange for sanctions relief.
The deal was abandoned in 2018 by then-U.S. President Donald Trump. Current President Joe Biden has sought to revive it. Iran has demanded that crippling U.S. financial and trade sanctions reimposed on it by Trump be scrapped as part of any new deal.
“On the table right now is a bad deal. It would give Iran a hundred bn dollars a year … that will be used to undermine stability in the Middle East and spread terror around the globe,” Lapid said. Iran denies fomenting terrorism.
“The sweeping removal of sanctions on sectors like banking – against financial institutions designated today as supporting terrorism – means the Iranians will have no problem whatsoever laundering money … Iran will assist other nations facing sanctions to evade them.”
Lapid did not provide details of what his $100bn figure was based on, or name nations that could dodge sanctions.
Some critics of the draft deal point to the possibility of Russia – a party to the 2015 pact with Iran but now under severe Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine – stepping up transactions with Iran, including oil and weapons.
On Wednesday, Iran launched exercises to test its combat and reconnaissance drones, state media reported, amid U.S. concerns over the possible supply of Iranian-made unmanned aircraft to Russia for use in its invasion of Ukraine.
Israel is not a party to the ongoing nuclear negotiations. But its worries about its arch-enemy and veiled threats to take pre-emptive military action against Iran if it deems diplomacy a dead end have kept Western capitals attentive.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz is expected to travel to Washington on Thursday, his office said, following other Israeli security officials this week who held discussions with U.S. officials about Iran. (Source: Reuters)
24 Aug 22. Angola: MPLA control over vote mechanisms will likely ensure election victory. Today, 24 August, Angolans are voting for their next government. Public support for the opposition UNITA party has grown significantly, with the attendance of thousands at UNITA rallies, including in Luanda on 22 August, driving perceptions that the result will be extremely close. However, the ruling MPLA has taken a number of measures to ensure its victory. The party controls the National Election Commission (CNE), and the vote-counting system has been centralised, making it easier to manipulate the vote count. The Supreme Court is headed by Laurinda Cardoso, a member of the MPLA’s central committee, undermining prospects of a successful UNITA election challenge. The European Union has two experts on ground as part of an observer mission, however their report is never made public, and therefore will not reassure the Angolans of a fair election. UNITA is likely to organise protests, with repression by security forces likely to reduce threats to government stability but elevate threats to bystanders. (Source: Sibylline)
24 Aug 22. India: Release of suspended BJP legislator on bail after blasphemous comments will elevate the threat of unrest in the coming days. On 23 August, suspended BJP lawmaker from Hyderabad T Raja Singh was released just hours after standing before a court for outraging religious sentiments. Singh had allegedly made blasphemous comments against the Prophet in a YouTube video after he failed to prevent a show by Muslim stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui. The video went viral and prompted thousands of Muslims to hold protests outside police stations in Hyderabad, calling for Singh’s arrest. Singh’s court appearance also resulted in protests and counter protests by Muslims and Hindus outside the courthouse, which was violently dispersed by the police. The incident follows another former BJP member Nupur Sharma’s comments against the Prophet in June which led to mass unrest (see Sibylline Alert – 10 June 2022). There is a high likelihood of protests in Hyderabad and across the country in the coming days, particularly after Friday prayers, elevating the security threats to bystanders. (Source: Sibylline)
24 Aug 22. Malaysia: Najib supporters push for his release, but immediate associated unrest will be limited. On 24 August, around 150 supporters of ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak gathered in Kuala Lumpur, outside Istana Negara (National Palace) to call for Najib to be granted a royal pardon. The previous day, Najib began a 12-year sentence after his appeal against his 2020 conviction in the 1MDB corruption scandal was rejected by Malaysia’s Federal Court. The protest in the capital was largely peaceful, with security in attendance, although localised traffic disruption was reported. Najib had been undergoing a political comeback in the past year after leading UMNO to its first general election defeat in 2018, and it was widely assumed that he was attempting a return to the prime minister’s office. He remains influential within the again ruling UMNO party and has maintained popularity within certain sections of society. As such, it is highly likely that continued efforts will be made to secure his release, or shorten his sentence, although widespread disruptive street protests are unlikely. (Source: Sibylline)
24 Aug 22. Ethiopia: Reports indicate likely renewal of major military offensives in Tigray. This morning, 24 August, spokespersons from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the rebel government of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, claimed that government forces had launched an offensive against its southern forces around Alamata. The federal government has not confirmed the assault, however residents around Kobe, south of Alamata, have confirmed a build-up of Amhara special forces and allied militia in the region in recent days. If confirmed, this would be the first major offensive since the humanitarian truce was agreed in March. Such an offensive is likely designed to force the TPLF to agree to negotiations without pre-conditions (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 18 August 2022). An offensive which resulted in the occupation of Tigray would result in a prolonged insurgency and potentially overstretch Ethiopian forces. This would render them vulnerable to route and offensives into the Amhara region, as happened in 2021, though a subsequent push to Addis Ababa is unlikely, limiting threats to business operations in the capital. (Source: Sibylline)
23 Aug 22. U.S. military carries out strike in Syria on Iran-linked targets. The U.S. military said it carried out air strikes on Tuesday in Syria’s Deir al-Zor against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
The strikes came even as the United States aimed to respond to a draft agreement proposed by the European Union that would bring back the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that former President Donald Trump abandoned and current President Joe Biden has sought to revive.
The military’s Central Command said in a statement that such strikes were aimed at protecting U.S. forces from attack by Iran-backed groups.
It cited one such incident on Aug. 15, which Reuters has reported involved drone attack on a compound run by coalition and U.S.-backed Syrian opposition fighters, with no casualties.
“The president gave the direction for these strikes,” said spokesman Army Colonel Joe Buccino.
Central Command called the strikes a “proportionate, deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize the risk of casualties.”
The statement about Tuesday’s U.S. strike did not mention whether there were any casualties and did not say whether the air strikes were carried out by manned or unmanned aircraft.
This is not the first time U.S. warplanes have struck Iran-backed forces in Iraq and Syria. The United States hit operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one in Iraq in June last year.
U.S. forces first deployed into Syria during the Obama’s administration’s campaign against Islamic State, partnering with a Kurdish-led group called the Syrian Democratic Forces. There are about 900 U.S. troops in Syria, most of them in the east.
But Iran-backed militias established a foothold in Syria while fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad during Syria’s civil war.
Iranian-backed militias are heavily concentrated west of the Euphrates in Deir al-Zor province, where they get supplies from Iraq through the al-Bukamal border crossing. (Source: Reuters)
23 Aug 22. Kenya: Election petition is unlikely to succeed, though related protests are likely in coming days. The opposition leader and runner up in 9 August presidential polls, Raila Odinga, submitted his election petition to the Supreme Court on 22 August. He is calling for the polls to be nullified and re-run. Odinga contests that no candidate secured the required number of votes for an outright majority, claiming discrepancies between the number of voters and the results, as well as inaccuracies in vote tabulation. The president-elect, William Ruto, and the electoral commission have four days to file a response, while the Supreme Court must rule by 5 September. While the court previously nullified the 2017 general election it is unlikely that the court will support the petition; Kenya’s largest civil election observation group claims its count supports the result. Nevertheless, hundreds of Odinga’s supporters marched to the Supreme Court when the petition was delivered. Related demonstrations are likely in central Nairobi in the coming days. (Source: Sibylline)
23 Aug 22. Nigeria: Criminality endures in south-east despite heightened security force posture. On 22 August, a convent in south-eastern Imo state announced that four nuns travelling from Rivers state were kidnapped along the Okigwe-Enugu road. The route has reportedly become a kidnap hotspot, with a Catholic priest also kidnapped last week. Kidnap for ransom is a prevalent issue across Nigeria, with both locals and foreign nationals at risk of being targeted. This comes despite heightened security measures to combat criminal groups after they sabotaged the region’s Trans-Niger oil pipeline, which has consequently run dry since mid-June. The government’s failure to restore the pipeline’s functionality and the recent kidnaps highlight the enduring elevated levels of criminality, despite heightened security measures. This will sustain the threats posed by kidnappers and oil thieves, deterring international investment. (Source: Sibylline)
23 Aug 22. Argentina: Request for prison sentence for vice president elevates domestic unrest risks. On 22 August, prosecutors requested 12 years in prison and a lifetime ban on holding public office for Vice President Cristina Fernández over corruption charges, triggering localised protests and clashes in the capital Buenos Aires. The former president is on trial for allegedly helping to award public contracts in Santa Cruz province to Lázaro Báez, a businessman already convicted for corruption. The case is unlikely to impact Fernández’s political rights before the October 2023 general elections, as it is likely to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. Government pressure on the judiciary to acquit Fernández will likely increase in the coming year, increasing the risk of violent protests involving La Cámpora and other left-wing movements targeting the judiciary. Separately, the prosecutors’ requests will reduce the risk the ruling coalition collapsing, lowering government instability risks. (Source: Sibylline)
23 Aug 22. Libya: Potential formation of third parallel government will further disrupt oil exports. On 22 August, local media sources reported that a delegation representing interests in Libya’s southern regions has threatened to establish a parallel government and to seek UN intervention if its demands are not met. This follows renewed US calls for de-escalation in Libya amid concerns over the potential for violent clashes in the capital Tripoli. The demands include the involvement of southern representatives in the 5+5 Libya Joint Military Committee. With two parallel governments already in place in the eastern and western regions, the establishment of a third body would represent significant escalation. This will further undermine the prospects for a political solution, exacerbating the volatility of the security environment and threatening to undermine energy export pipelines from southern oilfields (see Sibylline Alert – 17 May 2022). Increased political polarisation will heighten the likelihood of a return to a full-scale civil war in the coming months. (Source: Sibylline)
23 Aug 22. Bangladesh: Cuts to public service operating hours in Dhaka highlights poor socio-economic health. On 22 August, the Cabinet Secretary announced cuts to school and office hours to conserve energy. Government agencies and banks will operate for seven hours a day instead of eight, while private companies can decide their own operating hours. Several areas of Bangladesh are already undergoing load shedding, highlighting a worsening power crunch. Elsewhere, the government recently increased fuel prices by over 50 percent, which led to unrest (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 8 August 2022). With around only USD 40bn left in foreign currency reserves, Dhaka is considering reaching out to Russia for oil discounts. It will also begin talks with the IMF for a loan starting in October. However, until citizens feel some relief from the energy crisis, an elevated risk of unrest will remain, sustaining bystander risks. (Source: Sibylline)
23 Aug 22. Thailand: Prime minister’s continued tenure will drive unrest, sustaining bystander risks. On 23 August, several protest groups held rallies in the capital Bangkok calling for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign. Approval ratings for the former army chief continue to fall, while opposition groups argue that he has now served the constitutional maximum period of eight years in office. His supporters reject this assertion, claiming that the eight-year period began after the introduction of the new constitution in 2017. The Constitutional Court will decide on 24 August whether to hear the petition from the opposition Pheu Thai Party regarding the issue. If the case is dismissed and Prayut remains in office, protests will highly likely intensify. Although participant numbers have been moderate so far, security efforts to prevent demonstrators from reaching Government House have already caused disruption in central Bangkok. (Source: Sibylline)
22 Aug 22. Angola: Opposition’s allegations of electoral fraud elevates likelihood of protests in Luanda following 24 August election, heightening threats to bystander safety. On 21 August, leader of the main opposition UNITA party, Adalberto Costa Júnior, accused the government of trying to establish a one-party state, highlighting the possibility that UNITA will contest the 24 August general election results. UNITA have accused the National Electoral Committee of not doing enough to prevent electoral fraud, questioning the body’s independence. Opposition parties have also criticised a lack of electoral observers and restrictions on opinion polls. It is likely that the MPLA will be re-elected, prompting UNITA to challenge the results and call for protests. Protests are likely in Luanda, around landmarks including the Largo da Independencia, and potentially key government buildings, particularly if an election challenge is filed with the Supreme Court. Security forces are likely to use excessive force to disperse protests, elevating threats to bystander safety, although such repressive measures will likely reduce the long-term threat of unrest. (Source: Sibylline)
22 Aug 22. South Korea-US: Joint military exercises will not deter further provocation from Pyongyang. On 22 August, South Korean and US armed forces began a series of large-scale joint exercises aimed at testing and showcasing their defence capabilities amid increasing provocation from North Korea. The drills, running until 1 September, are the first field training exercises between the allied forces since 2018. The drills follow an intense period of North Korean missile activity and escalatory rhetoric directed at the recently inaugurated South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol. With the exercises involving multiple forces as well as cyber and civil defence capabilities, Pyongyang will view such actions as evidence of a “hostile policy” from South Korea and the US. There is a realistic possibility of tension escalation on the Korean Peninsula in the coming days, with Pyongyang likely to respond with further missile firing and preparations for a new nuclear test. It is also probable that North Korean state-linked hackers will ramp up malicious campaigns against South Korean and US government and private entities. (Source: Sibylline)
22 Aug 22. Somalia: Attack does not represent escalation in al-Shabaab capabilities underlining elevated terrorism threat in Mogadishu. In the early morning of 21 August, Somali security forces cleared al-Shabaab militants from the Hayat hotel in central Mogadishu following a 30-hour gunfight in which at least 21 people were killed and another 117 wounded (see Sibylline Alert – 19 August 2022). The attack itself was consistent with strategies and targeting previously employed by al-Shabaab. Hotels in Mogadishu often have small compound walls that are breached with the use of vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) followed by an armed assault, as was the case in this attack. Militants extended the fight for as long as possible, securing positions at the top of the hotel and destroying entry stairways, to maximise disruption. Security will likely be escalated in central Mogadishu over the coming days but the attack does not represent an increase in the already elevated threat level in Mogadishu. Additionally, al-Shabaab will likely come under increased pressure over the coming months due to the re-engagement of US ground troops. (Source: Sibylline)
22 Aug 22. Pakistan: Risk Of Unrest. In the early hours of 22 August, supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chief Imran Khan held protests in several cities and outside Khan’s home in Bani Gala, Islamabad after news of his possible arrest began to circulate. Pakistan’s police have charged the former prime minister under the Terrorism Act. PTI members have warned that the arrest of their leader is a “red line” that would lead to a “take over” of Islamabad.
- Charges against Khan were issued after he allegedly made threatening remarks against the Islamabad police and a female judge during a speech on Saturday (20 August), in connection to a case of sedation charged against his close aid Shahbaz Gill. Gill made critical comments against the army in a TV interview with ARY News. Khan claims that Gill was physically, mentally, and sexually tortured by authorities; an allegation the police and the government firmly reject. After a health check, doctors have now declared Gill “healthy and fit”. He appeared before the court today (22 August) amid high security. The judges are expected to announce a decision soon on whether to accept Gill’s appeal against the 48-hour extension of his detention.
- The Islamabad high court has granted Khan pre-arrest bail until 25 August, which will prevent authorities from arresting him until then. While this buys authorities more time to make adequate law and order preparations, the situation will remain tense in the capital over the coming days.
- Netizens and PTI supporters have also expressed anger at the government’s decision to block Khan’s speech on video sharing and social media sites such as YouTube. Authorities had previously also temporarily shut down ARY News after Gill’s comments, fuelling concerns over the curbing of free speech in Pakistan. The government’s move will therefore likely generate more sympathy for the former prime minister and deepen ordinary voters’ discontent toward the authorities. This will sustain the momentum of PTI’s rising popularity, as evidenced in the party’s convincing victory in Karachi’s NA-245 by-polls on 21 August.
Political tensions and the risk of unrest will remain high across the country in the coming days and weeks. PTI leaders will likely attempt to galvanise party members and supporters to hold mass protests against Khan’s arrest warrant. If the police detain Khan after 25 August, violent clashes in Islamabad and other major cities between PTI supporters and security forces are highly likely, raising physical security risks to bystanders as well as disruption to business operations. Media establishments, intersections between streets known as “chowks” and government buildings will remain key flashpoints. If Khan is not arrested, PTI supporters will likely hold mass rallies to show their strength and solidarity, sustaining the risk of unrest and disruption at least until the end of the week. Overseas Pakistani diasporas will also likely hold protests in support of Khan outside Pakistan diplomatic missions; however, these are unlikely to be significant in scale.
PTI supporters will travel to the capital ahead of Thursday (25 August) to show support for Khan, which will likely cause significant supply chain and transport disruptions on major highways heading into Islamabad. The police in the capital have already tightened security around Khan’s house last night, anticipating likely clashes. With the PTI continuing to protest against Gill’s arrest, any unfavourable developments in his case can also trigger violent unrest.
Last night’s developments will likely boost Khan’s anti-government campaign, which now also highlights human rights and free speech concerns in a bid to further bolster support from the wider population. While Khan’s looming arrest cannot be ruled out, the government will be fully aware of the potential impact on social stability and law and order when dealing with any legal cases of the still popular ex-prime minister.
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