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National security wrap

Posted By , , , and on March 5, 2020 @ 13:16

The beat

UK police prepare for coronavirus hit

The UK government is poised to implement a number of measures if the country experiences a serious Covid-19 crisis. At the peak of such a crisis, it’s estimated that up to a fifth of the police force could get sick. Authorities plan to respond by halting non-urgent murder inquiries and other long-term investigations to focus on major incidents. These measures are part of the government’s broader action plan.

Delhi police ‘complicit’ in violence against Muslims

Police supported Hindu mobs during the violence against Muslims that broke out last week in New Delhi, argues Indian political editor Hartosh Singh Bal. Forty-six people were killed and 250 injured during the four days of unrest that coincided with US President Donald Trump’s visit to India. Despite evidence that some police officers turned a blind eye to or were complicit in the attacks, they are unlikely to face criminal charges. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is accused of inciting discrimination, particularly after its much-criticised new citizenship law was passed late last year.

Amnesty calls for Ethiopian police accountability

Amnesty International has accused Ethiopian police of arbitrarily detaining members of the country’s opposition. Oromo Liberation Front leader Abdi Regassa was last seen in police custody after he was arrested, and his whereabouts remain unknown. After years of government repression and anti-government protests, Ethiopia had a breakthrough in 2018 with the election of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the general state of human rights in the country improved, according to Human Rights Watch.

CT scan

US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan despite terror threat

The US has announced it will begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, despite renewed attacks from the Taliban on Afghan forces. The agreement struck between the US and the Taliban will see American troop levels cut to 8,600 over the next 135 days. However, US officials are pressing the administration to keep some personnel in the country for counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda and Islamic State, citing a lack of trust in the Taliban to prevent terrorist groups from operating out of Afghanistan.

UK to launch cyber force

After months of delays, the UK is set to announce the launch of a specialist cyber force that will be able to target hostile states and terror groups. While the details of what the force will do remain unclear, the government has said that existing capabilities will be consolidated and new ones developed. The move makes clear Britain’s intention to expand its offensive cyber capabilities to disrupt enemy states and take down communication networks used by terror groups.

Philippines and US conduct joint counterterrorism exercise

Troops from the Philippines and the US completed a joint counterterrorism exercise in Palawan last week, fulfilling commitments under the US–Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement, despite Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte having given notice of his intention to terminate it. Counterterrorism skills and tactics were the focus of the exercise.


EU boosts assistance to Greece for migrant crisis

The European Commission has pledged €700 million to Greece and will deploy EU border patrol unit Frontex to assist with the migrant crisis. The move was prompted by Turkey’s reneging on its 2016 commitment to host hundreds of thousands of migrants on its own soil in return for EU aid. The number of people crossing EU borders illegally dropped from 1.8 million in 2015 to 124,000 in 2019.

Egypt builds wall along Gaza border

Egypt has commenced construction of a 6-metre-high concrete wall on its border with Gaza. Egypt has not officially commented on the construction of the wall, though it has reiterated its support for the Palestinian cause and called on both Israel and Palestine to consider the US vision for peace. Egypt expressed support for Washington’s Middle East plan around the same time  that the US was chosen as an external mediator for its dispute with Ethiopia over a controversial dam.

India plans new fence along Bangladeshi border

India has announced that it will install steel-mesh fencing in 58 places along its border with Bangladesh, amid fears of an escalation of the Rohingya crisis. India has already placed barbed-wire fences along over 3,000 kilometres of the 4,097-kilometre border. Officials in Bangladesh have expressed concern that the India–Bangladesh border will soon mirror the highly policed border with Pakistan.

First responder

WHO confirms coronavirus more deadly than flu

The World Health Organization says the global mortality rate for confirmed cases of Covid-19 is 3.4%, which is higher than previous estimates of 2% and also exceeds the seasonal flu’s fatality rate of less than 1%. While it says the virus is containable, the WHO has urged all countries to better protect health workers, mitigate community transmissions and increase production of protective gear by 40%.

UN launches Rohingya response plan

UN agencies and their NGO partners have launched a joint response plan for the Rohingya humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh. The appeal aims to raise US$877 million to respond to the needs of more than 1.3 million people. The plan’s objectives include strengthening protection for refugees, providing life-saving assistance, fostering community wellbeing and working towards long-term, sustainable solutions to the crisis.

China may deploy duck army to battle Pakistani locusts

As many as 100,000 Chinese ducks could be sent to Pakistan to help tackle heavy locust infestations that have spread into South Asia after hitting East Africa. Some scientists suggest that using natural predators like ducks to fight locusts can be cheaper and safer for the environment than pesticides. However, several experts have questioned whether ducks would be suited to Pakistan’s extreme temperatures and difficult terrain.

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[1] is poised to implement: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/03/inquiries-to-be-halted-if-coronavirus-hits-police-numbers

[2] action plan: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-action-plan

[3] argues: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/03/opinion/delhi-pogrom.html

[4] citizenship law: https://www.ft.com/content/b96a33c4-247e-11ea-9a4f-963f0ec7e134

[5] has accused: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/03/ethiopia-police-must-account-for-missing-oromo-opposition-leader/

[6] Human Rights Watch: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/ethiopia

[7] despite renewed attacks from the Taliban: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/02/world/asia/us-troop-withdrawal-afghanistan.html

[8] 8,600 over the next 135 days: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/29/us-taliban-sign-peace-agreement-afghanistan-war

[9] lack of trust in the Taliban to prevent terrorist groups: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/03/top-allies-trump-forces-afghanistan-119694

[10] specialist cyber force: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/feb/27/uk-to-launch-specialist-cyber-force-able-to-target-terror-groups

[11] joint counterterrorism exercise: https://www.nst.com.my/world/region/2020/03/570859/philippine-us-elite-forces-hone-counter-terrorism-tactics

[12] pledged: https://www.rte.ie/news/world/2020/0303/1119966-syria-greece/

[13] reneging: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/29/world/europe/turkey-migrants-eu.html

[14] number: https://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2018/11/BREVILLE/59238

[15] commenced: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/02/egypt-builds-concrete-wall-border-gaza-for-national-security.html

[16] same time: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200220-us-egypt-ethiopia-dispute-over-renaissance-dam-escalates/

[17] announced: https://www.newagebd.net/article/101110/india-plans-steel-mesh-fence-along-border-with-bangladesh

[18] expressed: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/india-erecting-new-steel-fence-along-pakistan-bangla-borders-officials/articleshow/73191397.cms?from=mdr

[19] says: https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19---3-march-2020

[20] urged: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-coronavirus-health-who/coronavirus-more-deadly-than-flu-but-containable-whos-tedros-idUSKBN20Q2G6

[21] launched: https://reliefweb.int/report/bangladesh/un-appeals-usd-877m-rohingya-refugee-response-bangladesh

[22] include: https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2020/3/5e5cfb984/un-appeals-us877-million-rohingya-refugee-response-bangladesh.html

[23] sent: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51658145

[24] suggest: https://asiatimes.com/2020/02/china-sending-duck-army-to-counter-locusts/