China sends jets into Taiwan’s Air identification zone. China has flown dozens of warplanes towards Taiwan in its largest display of power of the new year. The formation of 39 jets on Sunday the 23rd January included 24 J-16 fighter jets and 10 J-10 jets, among other support and electronic warfare aircraft, according to Taiwan’s defence ministry. Taiwan’s air force tracked the People’s Liberation Army planes on its air defence radar systems, it added. The activity has generally been in the air space southwest of Taiwan. This falls into what Taiwan’s military calls the air defence identification zone, or air space it monitors out of national security considerations. China, much like Russia, has been taking aggressive actions to show that it is serious about Taiwan, which it considered a renegade province. This is one of the largest displays of force by China and we will be watching if China takes any real action to regain Taiwan
For further analysis see the battle for Taiwan
US puts troops on alert over Ukraine. US President Joe Biden has said that the US will send troops to NATO countries in Eastern Europe “in the near term,” after Russia’s deployment of over 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border raised fears an invasion could be imminent. Earlier in the week the US had put 8,500 troops on heightened alert for possible deployment to Eastern Europe but the president told reporters that he will not send “a lot” of troops to the region in the near term.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued the prepare to deploy orders at the direction of President Joe Biden, the latest step the US has taken to prepare for a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine that officials have warned could be imminent.
A US spokesman confirmed ”that bulk of” its troops placed on heightened alert were intended to bolster NATO’s quick response force, but added they would be “postured to be ready for any other contingencies as well.” He also confirmed that any deployment in Europe “is really about reassuring the eastern flank of Nato” of the US readiness to come to the defence of alliance members. The force would not be deployed in Ukraine, which is not a Nato member.
Denmark, Spain and Netherland have confirmed sending enforcements while France’s Macron expressed his government’s readiness to send French troops to Romania under Nato command.
The Kremlin pointed to the new deployments as evidence of Nato aggressive posturing, blaming Nato for the rise in tensions.
The US has now responded officially to Russia’s concerns and Vladimir Putin is expected to provide a public response this week. America’s response did not address the essence of Russia’s concerns about NATO encroachment and Ukraine’s membership of NATO. We will be watching for Russia’s actions to see if it uses its military if the current tensions lead to further talks.
Afghanistan: West makes humanitarian aid conditional upon Human Rights record. In its first visit to Europe after taking power, a Taliban delegation called on the West to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets — worth $10 billion — to alleviate the country’s deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation. The Taliban have hailed last week’s talks – held in a hotel near Oslo – as a step toward international recognition. No country has yet recognised the Taliban regime, and the international community is waiting to see how the Taliban intend to govern before releasing aid.
Pakistan Today reported that on the last day of talks between Western officials and Afghanistan’s Taliban delegation, European diplomats stated that humanitarian aid to Afghanistan would depend on the Taliban’s human rights record, particularly women and girls’ right to education. Western governments have expressed interest in working with the Taliban to mitigate Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis and offer aid to the population, which suffers from food insecurity, severe winter conditions and high inflation. The West may use conditional humanitarian aid in future deals with the Taliban as well, as Afghanistan’s economic aid has remained frozen since the Taliban takeover in August 2021.
The European Union’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Tomas Niklasson, wrote on Twitter that he had “underlined the need for primary and secondary schools to be accessible for boys and girls throughout the country when the school year starts in March“. The Taliban is yet to announce a countrywide policy for girls’ access to education among all age groups and its spokesperson has been insisting that this is a temporary issue due to resource constraints in providing separate spaces for male and female students.
Afghanistan’s humanitarian situation has rapidly deteriorated since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, when international aid came to a sudden halt, worsening the plight of millions of people already suffering from hunger after several severe droughts. Some 55% of the Afghan population is now suffering from hunger, according to the United Nations.
Burkina Faso coup. The President of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré was overthrown by a group of military officers on the 23rd January 2022. The coup was announced on state television on Monday the 24th January, ending more than six months of public demands for him to resign. Kaboré has lost popularity even before he was reelected for a second term in 2020, an election that just over half of registered voters participated in. Kaboré had been under fire over his government’s failure to tackle insurgencies and over the presence of French troops. The coup had public support as the Burkinabes defied ECOWAS potential reaction by chanting “Down with ECOWAS.” Burkina Faso joins Guinea, Chad, Sudan, and Mali as the fifth country within the Sahel taken over by the military since 2020. The upsurge of military coups in the last two years in the region is alarming and reminiscent of the Post-world War II era when the US and European powers backed such events.
US approves $2.5bn arms sale to Egypt. United States President Joe Biden’s administration has approved a massive arms sale to Egypt valued at about $2.5bn, despite continued calls for Washington to curtail its support until Cairo improves its human rights record. The possible sale, which is not finalised, includes 12 Super Hercules C-130 transport aircraft and related equipment worth $2.2bn, and air defence radar systems worth an estimated $355m. The US Department of State said the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale on Tuesday the 18th January. The announcement came just hours after congressional Democrats urged the administration not to release a much smaller package of military assistance withheld last year pending the Egyptian government meeting certain rights-related conditions. “The proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a major non-NATO ally country that continues to be an important strategic partner in the Middle East,” the State Department said. “We maintain that our bilateral relationship with Egypt will be stronger, and America’s interests will be better served, through continued US engagement to advance our national security interests, including addressing our human rights concerns,” it added.
The US-Egypt security relationship was one the cornerstone of US presence in the region, but economic and domestic issues has seen Egypt lose its position in the broader region and seen the US turn to other allies such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Nevertheless the relationship remains an important one as this arms deal shows, despite US concerns on the nations Human Rights record.