National security wrap

The beat

Prison strike over ‘modern slavery’ continues

A North American prison strike, sparked by the death of seven inmates during a riot in a South Carolina jail in April, is now in its second week. The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee issued a statement that prisoners in 10 US states and Nova Scotia, Canada, are participating in hunger and work strikes and boycotting commissary purchases. Advocates issued a list of 10 demands, including ending ‘modern slavery’ and low wages. More in-depth analysis can be found here. The strike began on 21 August and is set to end on 9 September.

Entire police force suspended

An entire local police force in central Mexico has been suspended over corruption allegations. More than 200 police officers in the city of Tehuacán were disarmed, and 113 officers are reportedly on the run, including the municipal police director. It’s the fourth operation this year in the states of Puebla; in May, 113 of 185 officers in San Martín Texmelucan were found to have paid bribes to get on the force. Insight Crime reports that local officers may be susceptible to corruption because they are ‘overworked, underpaid and understaffed’.

Australians awarded at international police conference

Three female Australian police officers and AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin received awards at the International Association of Women Police conference in Calgary, Canada. A list of all award recipients and their profiles can be found here.

CT scan

India and Pakistan join counterterrorism exercise

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation held a counterterrorism drill involving 3,000 soldiers from seven Central and South Asian countries. ‘Peaceful Mission 2018’ was held in Russia with the aim of expanding cooperation among member countries to deal with the threat of terrorism and extremism. The event focused on ‘tactical level operations in an international counter insurgency environment’. This year was the first time the exercise has involved India and Pakistan. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said a stable relationship between India and Pakistan is ‘significant to the peace and development of the region and the whole world’.

China builds base in the ‘graveyard of empires’

China’s army is building a training camp for Afghan troops in the Wakhan Corridor region of Afghanistan. The South China Morning Post reported that Chinese troops are likely to be based there once the camp has been completed, but the Afghan embassy in Beijing denied the claim. According to military sources, the base’s purpose is to help stop the movement of radical jihadists between Afghanistan and China. This comes amid a sweeping crackdown on Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.


Trump tweets may jeopardise DMZ deal

North and South Korea have agreed to a trial closure of some of the guard posts lining their highly fortified border but conflicting statements from the White House could jeopardise the deal. US President Donald Trump today backtracked on a declaration that controversial US–South Korea military exercises would continue amid an impasse with Pyongyang. Despite Trump saying there is ‘no reason’ to hold them now, the statement also warned ‘the President can instantly start the joint exercises again’ if he so chooses.

Deaths on Afghan–Tajik border

Negotiations between Russia and the Taliban have been postponed after an airstrike on the Afghanistan–Tajikistan border killed suspected Taliban insurgents. Afghan officials claim Tajikistan’s air force carried out the attack after two Tajik forest rangers were killed confronting Taliban drug smugglers. If Tajikistan carried out the raid it would be a step up for its forces, which are not thought to include armed jets. Russia has denied responsibility for the strike, despite having a large military presence in Tajikistan. To add to the confusion, a Taliban spokesman said those killed were not members of the group.

Kosovo opposition parties move to stop Serbia border deal

Kosovo’s opposition parties are resisting a proposed land swap to settle the Serbia–Kosovo border dispute, calling for an extraordinary parliamentary session to vote on the matter. A ‘border correction’ would see Kosovo’s majority-Serb region swapped for Serbia’s majority-Albanian area. If it goes ahead, the deal could bolster the case for integration of western Balkan states into the EU. There’s also a possibility the border swaps could also cause a chain reaction in the region, leading to the re-emergence of armed conflicts.

First responder

FAO warns swine flu outbreak may spread across Asia

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that this month’s outbreak of African swine fever in China could spread across Asia. So far, China has culled 24,000 pigs in four provinces. The Chinese government has announced that it will tighten quarantine measures at its borders and launch a massive inspection drive. The government has also instructed local authorities to step up collaboration and issue guidelines on biosafety protocols to pig farms. FAO’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases is assessing the situation in China and neighbouring countries and emphasising the need to be prepared to tackle a wider outbreak.

Central America faces food security crisis

Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are grappling with a severe drought that has resulted in the loss of 280,000 hectares of staple crops like corn and beans. The FAO and the World Food Programme are worried that the situation might get worse if an El Niño weather pattern develops by the end of the year. The Honduran government has declared an emergency and El Salvador issued a red alert in July. The UN agencies are working closely with the governments to address the situation by harvesting rainwater and evacuating people from the worst-affected areas.