What Our Analysts Are Reading – October, 2023

Navanti’s data collection and analysis are based on networks of on-the-ground researchers from all walks of life: journalists, academics, and humanitarian workers, to name a few. Our analysts also keep abreast of open source reports to inform their work. Below, these analysts have summarized and contextualized the most important pieces they have read and listened to over the past month.


In the span of a week, Afghanistan’s Herat province has been rattled by three significant earthquakes, the latest registering at magnitude 6.3, following the devastating quake on October 8 that claimed over 2,000 lives. The most recent earthquake struck on Sunday with its epicenter located 33 kilometers northwest of Herat city, accompanied by a magnitude 5.5 aftershock just 20 minutes later. Reports indicate 93 injuries and one fatality. The earlier earthquake, which occurred only eight days prior, was also magnitude 6.3 and resulted in significant destruction and 2,053 casualties, with subsequent aftershocks. These seismic events have left the region’s residents fearful, prompting many to sleep outdoors as dust storms worsen living conditions and damage their makeshift shelters. The humanitarian challenges faced by Afghanistan, compounded by the limited support from international aid organizations, are making relief efforts increasingly challenging for the Taliban authorities, who assumed power in 2021 following the US withdrawal. The ongoing crisis is exacerbated by the lack of official recognition of the Taliban government and the withdrawal of foreign aid from multiple countries.


China’s recent actions in the South China Sea, particularly in its confrontations with the Philippines, have shed light on the inadequacy of the “gray-zone” concept to describe its tactics accurately. China has employed a range of tactics, both militarized and non-militarized, to assert control over its maritime claims in the South China Sea while avoiding being perceived as committing acts of war. These tactics include building artificial islands and military installations, deploying maritime militia, and using military-grade lasers and water cannons to disrupt missions. The ambiguity of the “gray zone” label hinders the identification of appropriate measures to counter these actions. China’s attempts to mask its expansionist agenda as “maritime rights protection” or “peacetime use of military forces” highlight the need for a more precise terminology. Viewing these activities as part of a “hybrid strategy” offers a more accurate and flexible approach to address and combat China’s coercive measures, promoting transparency, clear communication, and signaling while dispelling the shadows of ambiguity that surround these tactics. This shift can enhance crisis communications and enable the international community to respond effectively to China’s actions.


The journal article “Large weather and conflict effects on internal displacement in Somalia with little evidence of feedback onto conflict” in the March 2023 issue of  Global Environmental Change modeled the relationship between drought, displacement, and armed conflict in Somalia through spatio-temporal data on extreme weather (temperature and precipitation), internal displacement, and violent conflict events. The authors suggest that local weather data could be used in an early warning monitoring system to predict and better respond to mass displacement. They found that just a 1 °C increase in average monthly temperatures moving from 1 °C above average to 2 °C above average may predict a tenfold increase in internal displacement in the drought-prone country. Even temperatures that are 1 °C above average for the time of year could increase IDPs by 70%. Similarly, a reduction in rainfall for the time of year from 2 inches a month to 0 inches led to four times the number of IDPs, with three months lag between a sharp decrease in rainfall and mass relocation. Yale Climate Connections interviewed the principle author Lisa Thaltheimer in October 2023, who commented that, “…it takes people really three months to say, like, ‘No, we cannot take it anymore. We have to leave. We have no other choice’”. Conflict events can also predict a rise in displacement—the authors’ Somalia model showed a 50-fold increase in displacement at the sub-regional level when the number of conflict events rises from 0 to 25 and doubled rising from 25 to 50.


A recent analysis by Captain Jimmy Chien, a senior U.S. Air Force officer serving as the Taiwan-PRC director for the Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, has revealed that a substantial majority of Taiwanese individuals are poised to resist a potential Chinese invasion. Chien’s research indicates that approximately 70% of military-age men in Taiwan would be willing to take up arms in such a scenario. This data aligns with the findings of a previous study conducted by Taiwan’s Institute of National Defense and Security Research, which reported that 73% of Taiwanese citizens would resist a forceful takeover. The key factor in their readiness to defend their homeland is adequate training and support, particularly from the United States. These insights come amid increasing concerns about Taiwan’s defense readiness, leading to U.S. support and a focus on military training in addition to arms sales. In a significant development, Taiwan is preparing to send two battalions of ground troops to the U.S. for training, marking a crucial step in bolstering its defense capabilities.