News Dump Saturday: Blowback Edition
We armed and trained Afghanis during the 80's and there was never any blowback from that, amirite?
Remember all of those Afghan troops that we trained over the last 20 years? They are putting that training to good use.
Russian mercenaries, including the infamous Wagner Group, have been at the center of some of the most brutal fighting in Ukraine, including in the city of Bakhmut and the town of Soledar. The U.S. government continues to assess that as many as 50,000 Wagner Group mercenaries have been deployed to Ukraine, as many as 40,000 of them recruited from Russian prisons. A recent editorial published Tuesday in The New York Times once again raised the possibility that Wagner Group is also recruiting from another source: former members of the Afghan National Army’s special operations forces...
In January, Haibatullah Alizai, the last commander of the Afghan army, told The War Zone that as many as 40,000 former soldiers — among them 5,000 former commandos — had fled to Iran. There, according to Alizai, they were receiving offers through Russia and Iran of up to $1,500 a month and security for their families.
In the last days of the U.S. Afghan puppet government.
During the final months of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, as the Taliban advanced on the capital, the elected government struggled to reassure its US patrons that it could maintain control. Yet at the same time, smugglers were illegally carrying hundreds of millions of dollars in cash and gold out of the country with the assistance of officials from within the Afghan government, according to internal government documents and former Afghan officials.
The office of Ashraf Ghani, the US-backed Afghan president, had been informed about the problem, insiders say. But it did nothing to stop it.
Documents assembled by Afghanistan's now-defunct government and obtained by Insider show that $59.7 million in cash and gold went from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan through the port of Hairatan during the first three months of 2021, as the US contemplated withdrawing its forces and the Taliban geared up for the spring offensive that eventually toppled Kabul. During a 13-month period running from May 2019 through May 2020, the total was a staggering $824 million.
"According to preliminary estimates, the downturn in 2022 was more than 30%. One-third of our economy is gone... Inflation is slightly higher than 26%," Shmyhal told the German magazine Spiegel.
He noted that many enterprises were physically destroyed, such as Azovstal steel works which was one of the leading metal manufacturers in the country.
At the same time, Shmyhal called it important that the Ukrainian economy paid 10% more taxes than in 2021 despite such a drop.
So it's not just Ukraine's military that is being bailed out.
Ukraine’s allies are pushing the IMF to finalise plans for a multibillion-dollar lending programme as they seek to strengthen the war-torn country’s finances.
The fund’s representatives are planning to meet Ukrainian officials in Warsaw in mid-February to advance discussions over a loan that could range from $14bn-$16bn, said officials familiar with the talks. The goal is to finalise it by the spring.
Ukraine has said it is facing a $38bn deficit this year, while the World Bank has estimated that more than half of its energy infrastructure has been destroyed by Russian attacks, compounding the pressure on its economy.
To cover the financing gap, the EU has put forward €18bn in a package agreed between its member states in December.
Sanctions on Russia is not working.
The price cap “was invented by bureaucrats with finance degrees. None of them really understand oil markets,” Paul Sankey, president and lead analyst at Sankey Research, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Thursday.
“Its been a total bomb, it has failed completely.”
Iran + Venezuela = ILUVU?
(Reuters) - State firms from Iran and Venezuela will start in the coming weeks a 100-day revamp of the South American nation's largest refining complex to restore its crude distillation capacity, four sources close to the plan said.
The effort by state oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and the state-owned National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company (NIORDC) to boost fuel output at the Paraguana Refining Center marks a step toward ending Venezuela's reliance on U.S. refinery technology, the sources said.
Uh, is Iraq still a U.S. colony? Then why are their currency reserves controlled by the Federal Reserve? Iraq is collateral damage.
(AP) — For months, the United States has restricted Iraq’s access to its own dollars, trying to stamp out what Iraqi officials describe as rampant money laundering that benefits Iran and Syria. Iraq is now feeling the crunch, with a drop in the value of its currency and public anger blowing back against the prime minister.
The exchange rate for the Iraqi dinar has jumped to around 1,750 to the dollar at street exchanges in some parts of the country, compared to the official rate of 1,460 dinars to the dollar.
In Baghdad, exchange houses were closed on Thursday, while the Kurdistan Regional Government banned exchange companies in Sulaimaniyah from making transfers.
The devaluation has already sparked protests. If it persists, analysts said, it could challenge the mandate of the government formed in October after a yearlong political stalemate.
The dinar’s deterioration comes even though Iraq’s foreign currency reserves are at an all-time high of around $100 billion, pumped up by spiking global oil prices that have brought increasing revenues to the petroleum-rich nation.
But accessing that money is a different story.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iraq’s foreign currency reserves have been housed at the United States’ Federal Reserve, giving the Americans significant control over Iraq’s supply of dollars. The Central Bank of Iraq requests dollars from the Fed and then sells them to commercial banks and exchange houses at the official exchange rate through a mechanism known as the “dollar auction.”
...U.S. officials confirmed to the AP that they suspected the system was used for money laundering but declined to comment in detail on the allegations or the new restrictions.
For years, large quantities of dollars were transferred out of the country to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Lebanon through “gray market trading, using fake invoices for overpriced items,” a financial adviser to the Iraqi prime minister said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The inflated invoices were used to launder dollars, with most of them sent to Iran and Syria, which are under U.S. sanctions, leading to complaints from American officials, he said.
“This system started rejecting transfers and invoices that used to be approved by the central bank,” he said. “Around 80% of transactions were being rejected.”
The amount of dollars sold daily in the auction plummeted to $69.6 million on Jan. 31, from $257.8 million six months earlier, according to Central Bank records. Far fewer of the dollars are going toward buying imports as well, down to around 34% from 90%.
Even when transactions are approved, it takes banks up to 15 days to get the funds rather than two or three days, Hasnawi said.
Unable to get dollars at the official price through banks, he said, traders turned to the black market to buy dollars, causing the price to rise.
for this eyeopening report.
Skilled warriors find new venue. Anti USA with, most likely, an identical final act.
Kabul then Kiev falling into hands other than the USA.
But not before huge fortunes were amassed and hundreds of thousands die.
It's amusing that the IMF is going to give Ukraine "loans."
Are the Ukrainians being asked to provide large portions of what is left of their country as collateral on these loans? Last I checked, the IMF did not provide gifts. What did your quote say?
$16 billion will be 1) a drop in the bucket and 2) far and away more than what the Ukrainian government will be able to afford.
According to Yuliya Yurchenko (Ukraine and the Empire of Capital), the Ukrainian government is run by embezzlers and the Ukrainian economy has been in decline since the Soviet Union disintegrated. Certainly the people at the IMF have read Yurchenko's book. So why are they doing this?
As for who wants to defend Ukraine and its government, I have to imagine that, like Yurchenko, they are planning to clean house in the government once the war is over. Simple suggestion: end the war soon through negotiations, clean house soon. I'm guessing the rank-and-file are down to those who could not, for one reason or another, leave the country.
And as for Russia, there was a big exodus back in September when Putin issued a draft call. I'm imagining that at some point the troops themselves will call a truce. Or maybe both sides have a setup like the one they had in World War I: two armies, one in the front to fight and die, the other to make sure the one in the front fights and dies. Even so the French staged mutinies. And I suppose that, as you said, there are the mercenaries. They know what they're fighting for.
"you can say what you want about this country and I love this place. I love the freedoms we used to have..." -- George Carlin