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We invite members and friends to join us for an in-person meet-up in New York, on September 12th, from 6 pm - 9pm.
Join us for drinks and snacks at Maggie's Place, Upstairs.
Location: 21 East 47th Street, New York
$20 for FPA Members & Guests / $30 Non-Members
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We look forward to seeing you at Maggie's Place on September 12!
FPA President Ian Williams and Vice President Simon Locke discuss Amnesty International's recent Ukraine Report which appeared widely August 4th titled: “Ukraine: Ukrainian fighting tactics endanger civilians”.
24 hours ago on August 7th, just 3 days after their initial report, they released a statement in which they explain that Amnesty International "deeply regrets the distress and anger that our press release on the Ukrainian military’s fighting tactics has caused".
Yesterday, on August 8th, the head of Amnesty International Ukraine quit her position in response to the report. Throughout all of this, Amnesty International stands by their claims.
This Op-Ed is made possible by the Foreign Press Foundation. Donate to the Foreign Press Foundation using the button below.
fpa press briefing august 3rd
On August 3rd, the Foreign Press Association USA held a briefing with Vincent Wei-Cheng Wang, Senior Fellow in the Asia Program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and Dean and Professor of Political Science at Adelphi University.
Professor Wang discussed the implications and reactions to
the recent visit of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, to Taiwan.
Taiwan has a very rare diplomatic coup with the Speaker’s visit, publicly announcing her visit to Taiwan in support of democracy, especially in the face of China's opposition.
Wang pointed out that despite decades of constant and increasing pressure from the PRC, only about 2 or 3% of Taiwanese consider themselves Chinese. They are defiant, resilient, and absolutely not interested in Beijing’s design for them which is why they reach out to speaker Pelosi with open arms.
He acknowledged that the Chinese have become more assertive and powerful, but the Taiwanese and US have not been standing still - they have been expanding their capabilities. The invasion of Ukraine has increased the urgency of this preparation.
The tragic denouement of Hong Kong is a warning sign to Taiwan. Taiwan has always been skeptical of China’s promise to Hong Kong. In the end, the government of Xi Jinping has cracked down on any opposition. After 2019, Xi reduced his talk about one country two systems to a one-China principle. That restricted Taiwan the issue simply to simply being a Taiwan formula.
Professor Wang discussed the geostrategic implications - on the Silicon Front that proved so important with Russia, with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation talks and the implications for US involvement with Japan and South Korea - not to mention the fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
FPA member Hollie McKay shares with us an update on the recent CIA killing of Al Qaeda terrorist leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
In this 20-minute interview, Hollie McKay talks about Al Qaeda terrorist leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, whom the US killed in a CIA drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 31st at the home of a senior official of the Taliban government’s Haqqani Network faction.
About where Zawahiri came from, Hollie says,
Al Zawahiri is somebody that I've looked into a lot over the over the years. At the beginning of 2019, I spent a lot of time in Afghanistan, Pakistan, sort of in the area trying to kind of piece together whatever I could about him and his whereabouts. At that point, he was the number two Al Qaeda leader. There was a $25 million US. Bounty was on his head. He was right in there under Osama bin Laden. When Osama was killed, he took the reins as the as the top leader. I think it's important to go back and take in a little bit of background about him.
He was always kind of framed as being a more wiser alternative to al-Baghdadi, who at that point was leading ISIS. Zawahiri himself characterized ISIS as naive and irresponsible. Zawahiri was this older guy. I think at that point he was around 67, so he would have been in his early 70s and at this point when he was killed.
He went under a number of different pseudonyms. He was Abu Mohammed. He was called the Doctor. He was the Teacher, and he was Abdel Nour. He was actually an eye surgeon. He was always known to wear these white turbans. He got his start as a teenage member of Cairo's Muslim Brotherhood. He was an Egyptian. He formed his own underground cell that was devoted to establishing an Islamic State called the Egyptian Islamic Jihad before he went on to medical school.
After that, Zawahiri went on to climb the terrorist ranks. In his early 30s, after a religious visit to Saudi Arabia in 1985, and that's where he merged his own cell with Osama bin Laden's Fighting Fleet. He became Osama’s personal physician and advisor around 1986. In 1993, he was reported to have even traveled to California to raise money for Afghan children wounded in the war with the Soviets.
In the ensuing years, Zawahiri ordered attacks, including the 1995 bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad and he played a prominent part in a coordinated series of 1998 U.S. embassy explosions in East Africa. As a terrorist, he certainly has a quite a track record.
Then what we saw in 2013 was the rise of ISIS. That really came following a split by ISIS from Al Qaeda and Zawahiri. He really came out to denounce the rival organization. That was in reality a strategic bid not to alienate vast segments of the population who were looking for that extremism but still opposed to the ISIS movement.
While Baghdadi, at that point, was fairly camera shy and rarely ever appeared in in videos or even voice recordings, Zawahiri has quite frequently visible, although less in recent years, featured on the propaganda screen; again, playing that wise role and releasing different videos with audio footage playing special tributes.
About Zawahiri’s relationship with the Haqqani Network, Hollie notes,
Zawahiri often played a prominent tribute to the Haqqani's; and when one of these Haqqani leaders would die, Zawahiri would often release a tribute video. Fast forward and look at Afghanistan, which a year ago, fell to the Taliban. And of course, a major leader within the Taliban, and one of the top security directors of the country is, Siraj Haqqani.
On the hunt for al-Zawahiri over the years, Hollie chronicles,
I remember in 2014 Zawahiri called for the return of Al Qaeda in India. It was always just very unclear where he was hiding out and that was something that I was really looking into at the time and the intelligence on his location at that point in 2019 was really varied.
In early 2017, they had some very good sources in the US that said Pakistan was the likely sanctuary, which of course at that point in the federally administered tribal areas, there were a lot terrorists hiding out.
A little bit later a couple of years later, more in sort of 2019 intelligence operatives, both in the United States and sort of in the Middle East had pinpointed his location to those ungoverned spaces between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It wasn't quite clear, but those areas tend to be where people cross those borders fairly freely. It was very unclear.
He was possibly in the Waziristan region where there were numerous reports of his sightings. I think that there were some reports that he was even captured, but they were generally considered to be false alarms. I also do remember in early 2016 the US conducted a drone strike on a confirmed Zawahiri location at that point, which was North Gilgit-Baltistan’s Shallow valley in Pakistan; but apparently, he managed to escape so. I think a decade earlier the US was also reported to have launched an airstrike on the Pakistani border in a village called Dam Adola, Pakistan which was near Afghanistan.
On the existence of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan,
Recall that in August, 2021 episode about 20 terrorist groups still operating in Afghanistan appeared in this substack,
What I was told from very good sources connected to both Al Qaeda and the Haqqani when I was living in Afghanistan last year was essentially that al Qaeda did exist. I was told, there were certainly people that were loyal to Zawahiri, loyal to al Qaeda, that were still in Afghanistan.
They were under extremely strict orders and conditions that they could absolutely do no military action and any evidence of them, planning, plotting, trying to, you know, do anything militarily would result in them being punished or killed.
That directive I assume still stood and is unclear that if Zawahiri and what exactly he was doing, how military it was, and it's also unclear how much of the Taliban leadership knew he was there.
My impressions from sources within those networks were that they knew that they were there, that they were living freely in Afghanistan after that fall, but were basically essentially under some sort of sort of house arrest where couldn't actually act upon anything that would violate the Doha agreement with the United States that in exchange for the US completely leaving the country , the Taliban would not harbor or enable any terrorist organizations to plot anything against the US.
In its interesting, however, the Doha Agreement was careful, my interpretation of it, didn't say that these organizations couldn't exist in Afghanistan, they just said that they couldn't plot attacks against the US or its allies and interests.
The Taliban have come out with a statement decrying the drone strike over the weekend.
Please listen the complete interview.
For speaking enquires please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For those interested in learning more about the aftermath of war, please pick up a copy of my latest book “Only Cry for the Living: Memos from Inside the ISIS Battlefield.”
Africa Rising and Morocco Leading the Way: Notes from Marrakech
Simon Locke, Vice President, FPA, USA
Last week’s U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Marrakech, Morocco highlighted important recent developments on the Continent and in U.S.-Africa relations.
I attended the conference, listening to and spending time with leaders, and here are five key takeaways with links to useful context:
U.S. Engagement with Africa
The U.S.’s engagement with Africa is once more on the front burner. In a video message to the conference, Vice President Kamala Harris announced that in December the White House will host the first U.S.-Africa Leader’s Summit since the Obama administration in 2014. This will build on current engagement through significant government-supported and private investment into the Continent to build both physical and technological infrastructure. (Read: Washington Post AP Story)
The U.S.’s re-engagement with Africa is clearly welcome, but there’s a lot of ground to catch up. Take Morocco for example, where France and the United Arab Emirates are the top investors, followed by the U.K. Despite Morocco’s unique relationship with the U.S. – it was the first country to recognize America’s independence – the U.S. is still far down the list of sources of foreign direct investment in the country. See FDI data.
This matters. Economic ties translate to political ties. Africa’s tepid response to Ukraine underscores this. The U.S. will need to put its money where its mouth is, and move beyond its stop-start engagement if it is to have the influence it would like. Although, there’s skepticism and a mixed bag of attitudes towards the U.S. especially in the Middle East, the Marrakech Summit underscored the receptivity to American companies and technology, and the engagement underway.
Africa: The Solution, Not the Problem
At the business summit, leaders restated again and again the huge potential of the Continent, emphasizing that it is not only rich in resources and economic opportunity, but young people in an aging world. Africa will have a quarter of the worlds’ population by 2050, be a major global market, and center of industry as it transforms from a provider of raw materials for the world to an intrinsic part of value and supply chains. Read this Guardian article on Africa’s population growth.
It was clear that African countries look at summit host Morocco as a model. Over the last 15 years, the country has built a thriving automotive industry, the largest in Africa and now the leading exporter of cars into Europe. This has been achieved through a disciplined approach to public private partnerships, the creation of, and investment in, industrial zones, and championing of free markets under King Mohammed VI. Autos have leap-frogged its world-leading fertilizer industry to become the country’s primary export.
It is important to highlight that the industry is not simply building cars from parts made elsewhere… the majority of the components in the cars it exports are made in Morocco, as part of a 250-company strong manufacturing ecosystem that has been built from the ground up.
The African Continent Free Trade Agreement – which has more than 40 signatories – promises to open up intra-continental trade and provide the opportunity to scale industries to compete worldwide. Even with the challenges of COVID as a backdrop, six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa, underscoring confidence expressed by leaders in the Continent’s prospects.
The Abraham Accords
The Abraham Accords – with the normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, Oman, and Sudan - are widely viewed as a positive for the political stability and economic opportunities they are seen as providing North Africa.
Although initially seen in binary terms as a win for Israel and lose for Palestinians, there is a palpable sense that the Accords are more significant, offering hope for moving beyond what have felt like intractable issues in the region. They are providing opportunities for signatories to engage with Israel in efforts to build trust and advocate for Palestinians. The most recent example being Morocco’s role in the opening of the Allenby bridge between the West Bank and Jordan.
Having made huge leaps in mobile technology which has driven innovation in financial services, healthcare and eCommerce, the Continent is focused on adding power generation capacity to drive the digital infrastructure required to build new industries and provide services for its people.
Outside the cognoscenti, perceptions around technology in Africa in the West are largely out-of-date. The Continent’s technology ecosystem is thriving. National online financial services businesses are for example consolidating into pan-African powerhouses. Healthcare providers are delivering services to more people. Agricultural businesses are leveraging technology to enhance crop yields. And, governments are building infrastructure, industries and services required to move people from the informal economy to the formal economy.
Technology is critical not just to provide jobs and increase productivity, but to the goal of delivering services for populations based on as simple a concept as unique identifiers such as a Social Security number for large populations.
There’s a major focus in Africa on governance. Despite this, the last key takeaway from my time in Marrakech is the frustration of some leaders that global investors continue to see Africa through an out-of-date lens, as a high-risk investment.
On a country-by-country level, what I heard consistently was recognition that there is work to be done, but also that progress has clearly been made in many countries. The point leaders were looking to make was that Africa is in fact a huge investment opportunity.
There’s also some acknowledgment that there is work to do to engage more effectively with the media, and provide context to understand each Country’s history, unique institutions, and culture. In conversations about Morocco, its monarchy combined with democratic institutions, was key to the country’s stability and growth – yet something few understand.
A better understanding of what is taking place in Africa is critical to understanding its place in the world.
In the coming months, at the FPA we’ll be exploring ways in which we can contribute to a better understanding of African countries, economic development, culture, technology and politics to our members and audiences. If African leaders are right that the Continent is the solution and not the problem, deeper insights into Africa and its effects on the world will be increasingly important and valuable.
We welcome feedback on topics and issues you’d like to hear more about.
FPA President Ian Williams and Vice President Simon Locke discuss the recent AP post which appeared widely July 9 titled: “Ukraine bears share of blame for nursing home-attack” about the Russian Invasion of Ukraine and later ascribing a “major share” of the blame to making Ukraine. It was picked up by VOA and the Washington Post.
From FPA President Ian Williams:
The deeply flawed dispatch unequivocally blames the bulk of casualties and rights violations on Moscow and its surrogates while, quite correctly cautioning the Ukrainian forces about reported incidents. But I find it, intriguing, puzzling and shocking that the AP report distills this into a contradiction of its main conclusions by pointing the finger at Ukraine for the nursing home incident.
Even the AP report on the incident that they emphasize is anomalous. The Russians and their proxies invaded and were firing on the Care Home. The Ukrainian forces could not evacuate the residents but fought back against, never let us forget, the attackers. It was the attack that made this a military site. Whose attack? The Russians.
The tenor of the report was perhaps taken from the photo-caption with the story “A United Nations report says Ukraine’s armed forces bear a large share of the blame for a deadly assault on a care home for the elderly and disabled.”
The report shows the confusion of the immediate conflict but unequivocally says “That morning, soldiers from Russian affiliated armed groups attacked the care house with heavy weapons, with patients and staff still inside.”
So, the Ukrainians failed to evacuate the residents because the roads were mined, but it is a stretch to say they share the blame, and an outright lie to say that Ukrainians “bear a large, and perhaps equal, share of the blame for what happened in Stara Krasnyanka” and it is absolute misreporting to attribute that sentiment to the UN! The US “shares the blame” for 9-11 by putting the twin towers there as a target!
Was it just sloppy writing and editing? Was is a succession of editors falling over backwards to be fair and even handed? If I were a Ukrainian conspiracy theorist, I would suspect that this is Biden’s spin doctors paving the way for an abandonment of Ukraine since both sides are equally immoral. Whatever the excuse, it is culpably bad journalism.
To remind you, the UN report’s major admonition to Russia is “Immediately cease the armed attack that commenced on 24 February 2022 in the territory of Ukraine and fully comply with the binding 16 March 2022 order on provisional measures of the International Court of Justice."
The original articles:
United Nations Human Rights - Office of High Commissioner
Join South African pianist Nduduzo Makhathini as he describes his inspiration, his creative as well as his performing processes. He is the very first African musician to be signed by the Blue Note label.
For Makhathini, this sends a very positive message to all African musicians, especially regarding what they are allowed to aspire to, the possibilities available to them as well as to other performers.
In Conversation with FPA's Emilie Pons.
This briefing is made possible by the Foreign Press Foundation.
Statement from the Foreign Press Association USA
The recent US report the White House sought into the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh concluded that there is 'no reason to believe' that the shooting was deliberate. This flies in face of the clear evidence of continued shooting at the attempted rescuers and other clearly identified press at the site. The White House should not be part of the whitewash of Abu Akleh’s murder. It must hold the perpetrators to account, or it will be complicit in the deaths of more journalists in the region and worldwide. The FPA reiterates its call for a genuine independent investigation.
Van Hollen, Leahy, Murphy, Durbin Press Administration for Answers on US Review into Death of American Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
Stop the prevarication! When the “investigations” have to conclude!
So far, the US and Israeli governments have ignored the eyewitness testimony of the journalists who were with Shireen Abu Akleh, investigations by the Washington Post, the New York Times, Al-Jazeera, the CPJ, Bellingcat and now the United Nations Human Rights commission. Both governments await the results of “investigations” which the IDF clearly is not conducting and has no intention of concluding. The clear intent of both the Israeli government and the US State Department is that we all let the issue die as they spin wheels. We won’t.
If the US government will not investigate the murder of an American journalist, it sends clear signals to other governments that it is open season on journalists. We insist that the White House and State Department take action on the callous killing of our colleague.
Our colleagues at Bellingcat produce groundbreaking investigative journalism that has brought their work to international attention in recent years.
The Bellingcat Investigation Team has produced a report detailing the cold hard facts in the case of the killing of Palestinian American correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh, almost certainly they imply, by Israeli Security Forces while reporting in Jenin, in the West Bank on May 11, 2022.
Our media colleague was internationally renowned for her astute reporting, humanity, and her bravery. We as an International community owe it to Shireen Abu Akleh to have a full enquiry into her murder, and brings the perpetrators to justice, Shireen Abu Akleh deserves nothing less.