Afghan Prime Minister Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Washington has borne fruit in the form of an agreement to delay the military pullout from Afghanistan, in spite of promises to cease all troop presence before the end of his second term, fulfilling a campaign promise. Both premiers made a joint press conference announcing the decision, in stark contrast to the strained relations between Hamid Karzai and President Obama during his first term.
The current deal allows for intelligence and contractor bases operating drone airfields for airstrikes to remain open and operational, which apparently was one of Ghani’s primary requests to President Obama and the Joint Chiefs. According to an anonymous American official, the intelligence community sees around 10,000 troops as a key baseline to keep counterterrorism operations progressing. The newly revised “mission” of the American troop presence of 10,000 soldiers is now defined as assisting Afghan National Army training exercises and counterterrorism.
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- SouthGobi Resources has lost an appeal for $18 million fine for tax evasion in Mongolia, hurting the Canadian coal miner’s chance of avoiding a default on its debt. SouthGobi’s market value has shrunk some 95% and the company confirmed it would pursue insolvency proceedings if the fine was upheld on February 1. It is expected that SouthGobi will appeal to a higher court and deflated expectations after the president pardoned three former SouthGobii executives last month after their sentencing to five years for tax evasion.
- Political risk and advisory firm Stratfor has released a profile of Turkmenistan, citing its challenges in 2015 in terms of its recent currency devaluation and growing economic pressures in the form of gas prices. It also notes the lack of strategic alliances with Russia and its foreign policy of neutrality, as well as lack of an Islamic insurgency. Flagging growth in GDP reflects lower energy prices as well – read the entire profile here.
- Eurasianet reports that troops from Uzbekistan and Russia deployed to Turkmen-Afghan border according to a report on Chronicles of Turkmenistan. This marks the most aggressive move that Turkmenistan has taken to guarding its borders against encroaching Taliban and ISIS militants that according to some reports, have been operating out of northern Afghanistan.
- Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s tenuous alliance with billionaire governor of Igor Kolomoisky of Dnipropetrovsk has widened in the past week. Kolomoisky’s funding was apparently crucial in stopping pro-Russian separatist from advancing towards Kiev. The dispute appears to be over UrTransNafta and Ukrnafta, two state-owned enterprises in the energy sphere. Poroshenko announced unilaterally that Kolomoisky’s militias will be integrated into the formal Ukrainian military. The crisis came to a head on Monday, when Poroshenko ordered the state security service to arrest armed Kolomoisky men who had occupied the UkrTransNafta offices in Kiev.
- The Asian Development Bank economic forecasts for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan point to slower growth and tie their outlooks to the emerging recession in Russia, as well as the currency war and competitive devaluation that has been sweeping the former Soviet Union in the wake of the collapse in oil prices. Growth likely hinges on the Russian economy’s outlook for 2016 and a bounce back in commodities prices, but ADB analysts also pointed to flagging demand in China as well.