Afghanistan Update: 12 PM (Eastern Time), 15 August, 2021

This morning’s news from Kabul provides a textbook example of the final hours of a government’s collapse. With Taliban fighters having entered the Afghan capital, reports circulated indicating Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country along with his vice president and other senior officials. These reports were later confirmed and at present Ghani is in neighboring Tajikistan. A caretaker cadre of officials has remained behind to ‘coordinate the transition’ of power from the Afghan government to the Taliban. Events taking place in Kabul are moving swiftly. As the hours go by, more areas of Kabul are coming under Taliban control. It is safe to assume the city will be in their hands entirely within a matter of hours.

Meanwhile, efforts to evacuate the US embassy continue. Helicopters have been ferrying personnel from the embassy compound to Kabul’s international airport. All senior diplomats have been relocated to the airport and the US State Department has announced the embassy will close once all personnel have departed.

With victory on the ground now imminent, the Taliban has launched a public relations offensive aimed at reassuring Afghans. A Taliban spokesman has told Western reporters that there will be no revenge against the Afghan people. Other representatives have been driving through Kabul and telling citizens that their lives and properties are safe. As the eyes of the world are now locked upon Kabul, Taliban officials are crafting an image centered on peaceful transition efforts and reconciliation. It is a dog and pony show to an extent, of course. Most people are aware that once the Taliban is in power and the world’s attention drifts away, the Taliban’s true colors will emerge.

The next update will be posted sometime in the late afternoon or early evening. (Eastern Time)

Late July/August 2021 DIRT Project: North Korean Collapse Scenarios

Here we go again. Internal conditions in North Korea seem to be deteriorating at an accelerating pace. Every day the news reports become more disquieting; Food shortages, veiled warnings of a pandemic-related ‘Great Crisis’ by Kim Jong Un and an increasing number of foreign diplomats leaving Pyongyang every week. The picture being painted inspires neither confidence or hope about the North Korean government’s ability to stabilize conditions before it is too late. Now, predictions of an imminent North Korean collapse are making headway online….again.

We’ve been down this road before. The domestic situation in North Korea takes a turn for the worse, or Kim disappears from public view for an extended period. The media runs with it from there and starts loudly warning of a coming North Korean collapse. After a week or two, the hype disappears and North Korea muddles through yet another crisis that was supposed to sink it once and for all.

This time around, the situation in the North does appear to be more critical than it has in the past. However, looks can be deceiving. Either way, now is a good time to look at the potential scenarios that could emerge from a North Korean collapse. Unfortunately, doing so within the span of a 300-400 word entries is next to impossible. So, later on in the week I will post the first in a series of entries examining how a North Korean collapse might look in the near future. Right now, I’m thinking about 3-4 entries spread out over the next 5 weeks or so. Barring the appearance of a major crisis or pop-up conflict, of course. 😊

Kim Jong Un Health Concerns Revive Concerns of A North Korean Collapse Scenario.

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In the last 24 hours conflicting reports have emerged concerning the health of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. Sources in the US government have stated that US intelligence received word that Kim Jong Un was in ‘grave condition’ following cardio-vascular surgery. As a result, the United States is closely monitoring reports on Kim’s health, and simultaneously reassessing the overall current picture in that part of the world. South Korea, on the other hand, has reported no unusual signs regarding Kim’s health. Seoul has been unable to confirm Kim’s alleged poor health.

In time, the correct status of Kim Jong Un’s health will become known. If he turns up on television looking healthy and vibrant at some point in the coming days, the US claim was obviously a false alarm. However, if the opposite holds true and Kim is either clinging to life, or is already dead, the world will once again be faced with the prospect of a North Korean collapse. At first glance, the prospect of the North Korean regime collapsing might seem promising. It is not. If Kim dies, then a vacuum develops in Pyongyang. This could touch off fighting between various factions of the North Korean regime, and its military, as they fight for the crown. China, South Korea, and the United States all have a stake North Korea’s future too, for competing reasons in most cases. The possibility of one, or more of these nations’ militaries intervening in some way is not outside the realm of responsibility. That is the point when things would really start to go south, no pun intended.

Then there is the wildcard in any potential post-Kim North Korea: whoever controls the nation’s weapons of mass destruction. The North has chemical, and nuclear weapons, along with the platforms to deliver those weapons at least as far as Guam, and possibly all the way to the west coast of the United States. If it appears as if the weapons of mass destruction are not under the control of a stable faction, or political official, the US, China, or South Korea may feel compelled to secure, or destroy those weapons.

In short, the death of Kim Jong Un is something which nobody in Washington, Beijing, or Seoul is rooting for. Yet until the truth about Kim’s health is revealed, there will be speculation, and preparation aplenty taking place in these capitals, and around the region.

George Soros Warns the European Union

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George Soros issued a frank warning in an op-ed piece  published yesterday. The billionaire activist, and financial supporter of leftwing  progressive political causes around the world, urged Europeans to “please wake up” and recognize the internal and external threats facing the European Union. He compared the situation facing the EU today to the Soviet Union in 1991. The supra-national organization is facing a revolutionary moment that could pave the way to an uncertain future. Sadly, Soros points out, Europe’s leaders, and citizens seem not to recognize the dangerous territory which the EU is entering.

For a politically-involved wealthy private citizen to be publicly sounding the general alarm, it speaks volumes on the present state of the EU. Soros has long been a staunch supporter of the European experiment. However, unlike  many officials in Brussels, the Hungarian billionaire is also a realist.  The messy Brexit situation, unrest in France, Angela Merkel’s declining influence, and of course, the continuing rise of  populism, and nationalism have come together to form a perfect storm. Soros is obviously hoping his words will motivate Europhiles to take action before it is too late. Yet even he suggests it possible that the union is past the point of rescue.

European Parliament elections are coming in May. Soros is hoping his call will rally the EU and its supporters before then, and perhaps prevent the anticipated antiestablishment surge from becoming a reality. Fears of what the upcoming elections could bring are already circulating around the continent, and many view the May election as being a referendum on the entire 60-year old European Union experiment. There is a very real chance that anti-EU parties can win enough seats to severely disrupt legislative affairs. If Britain is still an EU member come May, it will send representatives to the European Parliament. An awkward scenario at best, a potential political storm at worst.

How the Soros warning is digested will become known as May draws nearer. Can his words rally EU leaders, and supporters in time, or is the European Union destined to meet the same fate as the Soviet Union?

Friday 3 March, 2017 Update: Venezuelan Monetary Reserves Diminishing

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Venezuela is rapidly approaching the moment when economic Armageddon becomes a grim reality and there is practically nothing its government can do at this point to reverse course. Data released by the nation’s central bank indicates Venezuela has only $10.5 Billion in foreign reserves left. In 2011 the amount was $30 Billion, and by 2015 that number had diminished to $20 Billion. Venezuela will pay $7.2 Billion to countries it owes debt payments to this year, suggesting that the moment when Venezuela runs out of money entirely could arrive at some point in the near future. The government has promised not to default on its debts, but at the current pace default is a very real possibility.

As the monetary reserves are thinning, hyperinflation has resulted in food and medical shortages that are compounding the everyday trials and tribulations being endured by Venezuelans. Food, and staple goods are becoming more and more scarce. Many hospitals are unable to render more than the most basic care. The sick and elderly are dying in ever-increasing numbers. The crime rate has soared with looting and unrest now the norm in many cities.  As bad as the humanitarian crisis is, the economic crisis that Venezuela is mired in bodes even worse for the nation’s long term fortunes.

An Economic collapse is imminent. Some economists say that it has already arrived and will only worsen as time goes on. My personal belief is that Venezuela is teetering on the brink of collapse, and has been for some time. Conditions have deteriorated at a rapid clip, but it will take something major for the collapse to begin in earnest. Defaulting on its debts will probably do the trick. The moment that happens, the economy will collapse entirely, bringing about a complete and irreversible collapse of Venezuela as a nation-state. There will be a massive exodus of citizens into neighboring countries, potentially causing a refugee crisis like South America has never before seen. Colombia will bear the brunt. Tens of thousands of incoming Venezuelan refugees would tax Colombia’s national infrastructure and act as a potential destabilizing force at a time when Colombia is finally getting its act together domestically.

Internationally, there is little that the world community can do but watch and wait. In the United States the number of Venezuelan immigrants entering the country over the last year has skyrocketed. Now, with the immigration laws and policies about to be restructured, there is concern in the US-Venezuelan community that the number of future immigrants will be limited. Activists in Florida are expected to petition President Trump to exclude Venezuelans from future immigration restrictions as the humanitarian crisis there appears likely to continue and worsen.