World View: Afghan Taliban Leader Reportedly Killed By U.S. Drone Strike in Pakistan


This morning’s key headlines from

  • Kazakhstan farmers riot over fears of encroachment from China
  • Afghan Taliban leader reportedly killed by US drone strike in Pakistan

Kazakhstan farmers riot over fears of encroachment from China

Riot police confront protesters on Saturday in Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city (Reuters)
Riot police confront protesters on Saturday in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city (Reuters)

Authorities in Kazakhstan reacted harshly to protests announced for Saturday by detaining possibly hundreds of journalists, activists and demonstrators. Police in full riot gear broke up the protests on Saturday, and dozens more were arrested in cities across the country.

They’re protesting against a planned “Land Reform” program. The program would make it easier for foreigners to buy farmland or rent it for 25 years. Protesters fear that the changes would make it easier for large Chinese agribusinesses to take control of vast swaths of farmland. According to one protester, “We can’t give land to the Chinese. If they come then they won’t leave!” China shares a lengthy border with Kazakhstan and has been heavily investing in its energy sector and infrastructure.

The new law was approved in November, but only comes into effect on July 1. In the last round of protests, on April 27, there were one or two thousand people in each city, which is quite serious for Kazakhstan where no dissent is tolerated. Authorities fear a repeat of the huge protests in 2011, when oil workers went on strike, and 14 people were killed by police gunfire.

Kazakhstan is heavily dependent on oil exports and because of the drop in oil prices, its revenues plummeted, creating a budget deficit. The government had to decrease its expenditure, and the national currency lost half of its value, although it’s slowly recovering now as oil prices are going up.

The collapse in global commodity prices, especially oil, drove Russia into recession, and has had s big ripple effect throughout central Asia, whose economies are dependent on Russia through subsidies and migrant labor. Kazakhstan’s currency, the tenge, has lost 50% of its value against the US dollar, and other currencies in the region have suffered similarly.

Although the proposed Land Reform law triggered the riots and protests, the downward spiraling economy has turned it into general protests again Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan in the last few years of the Soviet Empire, and then became president in 1991 when the Soviet Empire collapsed.

On May 5, Nazarbayev announced that the Land Reform would be put on hold, until the new laws could be discussed publicly. That was a huge concession to the activists, and perhaps was as much a sign of panic as anything else, but it didn’t stop the protests from happening anyway on Saturday. EurasiaNet and Press TV (Tehran) and BBC (28-Apr) and Jamestown

Afghan Taliban leader reportedly killed by US drone strike in Pakistan

According to the Pentagon, a US drone strike into Pakistan’s Balochistan province, has “likely” killed Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour.

Mansour’s rise to power came about in a bizarre way. His predecessor was Mullah Omar, who was the nominal leader of Afghan Taliban until his death was announced in July of last year. But when his death was announced, the announcement said that he had died in April 2013. In other words, for over two years of being leader of the Taliban, he was dead.

At that point, Mansour rose to leadership, but he has not been accepted as leader by all factions, with the result of extremely bitter political infighting within the Taliban.

Nonetheless, in recent months the Taliban has been expanding operations in Afghanistan’s south, and has captured several key districts, leading many to believe that President Obama will be forced to leave a large military contingent in Afghanistan at the end of his term.

Mansour’s whereabouts are a closely guarded secret, so if Mansour has indeed been killed by an American drone strike, it would have to have been done with intelligence from sources within the Taliban itself. Confirmation of Mansour’s death would have to come from announcement by the Taliban.

The death of Mansour, if confirmed, will not mean the end of the Taliban, just as the death of Osama bin Laden did not prevent continuing operations by al-Qaeda and did not prevent the rise of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). One possible scenario is that his death would worsen the political infighting in the Taliban. Another possible scenario is that an even more hardline leader will be chose, someone who will unite all the Taliban factions and end the infighting. AP and Foreign Policy

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Kazakhstan, Russia, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Afghanistan, Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, Mullah Omar, Pakistan, Balochistan
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