Global Pulse: Trump finds new reason to stay in Afghanistan, North Korea’s gaming-addicted elite and a new terror outfit in Pakistan

120229-A-8536E-817 U.S. Army soldiers prepare to conduct security checks near the Pakistan border at Combat Outpost Dand Patan in Afghanistan's Paktya province on Feb. 29, 2012. The soldiers are paratroopers assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson, U.S. Army. (Released)

TRUMP HAS A NEW REASON TO STAY IN AFGHANISTAN: BUSINESS

A skeptic of sending more troops to Afghanistan, Donald Trump has found a reason to keep the US engaged in the war-torn region – the country’s vast mineral wealth. In 2010, American officials had estimated their worth to be $1 trilllion. This estimate, which has been disputed, has now caught Trump’s attention.

Both George W. Bush and Barrack Obama had been taken in by the lure of the country’s mineral wealth, and had sought action in this regard. But given the rampant corruption, security concerns and lack of infrastructure, no progress was made. While these problems remain, for businessman Trump, the appeal of an economically profitable Afghanistan cannot be disputed. He also has advantage in Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who has been promoting his country’s mineral wealth.

 

NORTH KOREA’S INTERNET SAVVY ELITE

Western researchers just busted a myth about North Korea’s digital habits. While sifting through troves of the country’s internet data, with the intention of finding evidence of activity related to missile launches or malicious cyber activity, researchers found something else. The country’s elite, with unfettered internet access, devotes 65 percent of its internet traffic to gaming and streaming online content.

For this tiny influential circle of North Koreans, Facebook, Gmail, Amazon and itunes are as much of a preoccupation as for the rest of the world. Still, a large majority of the isolated country is poor and has no access to internet. However, those who do may then actually have alternative sources of information beyond what the Kim Jong Un regime wants them to know.

 

CHINA’S OBOR PASSES THROUGH TEHRAN

Iran is strategically at the centre of China’s “One Belt One Road” project. Rail routes, track beds, bridges are being built across Iran with the intention of linking Tehran to Europe, and Chinese investments and entrepreneurs are pouring into the country. There are other routes for China to connect to the West. But they are longer and require the Chinese to depend on Russia – a potential competitor. “If they want to save time and money, they will choose the shortest route”, says Fakhrieh-Kashan, the Iranian deputy minister of roads and urban development.

While the move would increase Tehran’s dependence on China, the Iranians do not necessarily see it as a bad thing. “It will give us huge access to new markets”, he said.

 

ANOTHER HICCUP IN THE TRUMP-PUTIN BROMANCE

In a rebuke to Trump’s stated objection to the legislation seeking sanctions on Russia, the US House of Representatives has voted to impose fresh sanctions on the country. House Speaker Paul Ryan said that the sanctions package “tightens the screws on our most dangerous adversaries in order to keep Americans safe”.

Trump has periodically made appeals, peppered with flattery for Vladimir Putin, for amicable relations with Kremlin. But with the emphatic vote – 419-three – in defiance of his stand, Trump would be now forced to obtain lawmakers’ permission before easing any sanctions on Moscow. Finally, if the legislation passes through the senate, he could still veto the bill. But not without doing some damage to his own reputation back home, which has anyway been under the scanner for his controversial relationship with Moscow.

 

A NEW TERROR OUTFIT BEHIND LAHORE ATTACK

The deadly Lahore attack this week has brought to light the emergence of a new terror outfit in Pakistan, Taliban Special Group (TSG) – a new wing of trained suicide commandoes of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TPP). The suicide attack, which claimed the lives of 26 people, was the first deadly attack by TSG. But it is not the first time an offshoot of the TTP has fomented trouble in the country.

The Daesh linked Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA), which was blacklisted by the United Nations earlier this month, has been responsible for a series of attacks in Pakistan since 2014. A senior police officer says the emergence of TSG has raised fresh security concerns in Pakistan, since the group has fidayeen commandos trained to carry out massive and deadly attacks.

 

Picture Courtesy: Defense.gov

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