Greater Middle East
drone

Turkish drones decisive in regional wars

The Turkish military is unveiling a new upgraded “unmanned combat aerial vehicle,” the Bayraktar Akıncı, developed by private drone manufacturer Baykar Defense, which is owned by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar. The Akıncı is a more advanced version of Turkey’s iconic Bayraktar TB2, able to fly higher and carry more missiles. The TB2 has been used by Ankara against Kurdish guerillas in northern Iraq, and against Syrian regime forces. Turkey has also provided the TB2 to various foreign militaries; it is held to have been decisive in Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenian forces in last year’s Nagorno-Karabakh war, as well as the Libyan government’s victory over the warlord Khalifa Haftar. Ukraine, having already tested an initial dispatchment of the drone, is now ordering 24 more for use in its war against Russian-backed separatists. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Pakistan backing Taliban takeover in Afghanistan?

The Taliban announced that they have taken the Panjshir Valley from the incipient National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA). In an audio statement from an undisclosed location, NRFA leader Ahamd Masoud pledged to carry on the fight, and called upon Afghans to launch a national uprising against the Taliban. Another NRFA leader, Fahmi Dashti, was reported killed in the battle for the Valley. News sources in India claimed he met his death in a targeted drone strike launched by Pakistan. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Afghanistan
ISIS-K

US collaborates with Taliban against ISIS: it’s official

At least 12 US service members were killed in a combined bomb attack and armed assault at a gate to the Kabul airport, where throngs fleeing the Taliban were desperately crowding. Up to 100 Afghan civilians were also killed, including children. US Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie told a press briefing at the Pentagon that the US is coordinating with the Taliban in the effort to maintain “security” in Kabul, saying: “They’ve been useful to work with.” It was also revealed that days earlier CIA director William J. Burns met face-to-face in Kabul with the top Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar. The “secret” meeting was reported in the Washington Post. (Photo via Future Center)

Iran
syria

Biden’s air-strikes bode poorly for Iran nuke deal

US warplanes carried out strikes on Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq. The Pentagon said the targets were arms depots in the border area used by the militias Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, which have carried out attacks against US personnel in Iraq for years. The militias have vowed to avenge the air-strikes. The strikes followed talks in Vienna on the Iran nuclear deal, including US re-entry, lifting of sanctions, and an Iranian return to compliance with limits on uranium enrichment. The discussions adjourned over a week ago, with Iranian officials saying a deal could be reached in the next round. However, since then, both Tehran and Washington have taken tougher public positions. (Image: Pixabay)

Africa
somalia

Somalia: drought compounds political crisis

The political heat is rising in Somalia over the determination of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, to cling to power despite his term having ended in February. He’s embraced a decision by the lower house of the Federal Parliament to extend his (and their) stay in office for an extra two years, to allow the running of delayed elections. The move was rejected by the Senate as “unconstitutional. The Senate called on Farmajo to rejoin UN-led talks—which he has rejected. As the crisis deepens, there are reports of a troop build-up in the capital and the fragmentation of the security forces. Yet this political tussle is being played out in the Mogadishu bubble. In the countryside, where the government holds little sway, a new drought emergency is underway. Almost 40,000 people have been forced from their homes in the first three months of the year due to poor rains, joining the 1.3 million displaced in 2020 by combined humanitarian disasters. (Photo: Joe English/UNICEF)

Africa
Dirkou

US steps up drone ops as Sahel violence flares

In the latest outbreak of fast-escalating violence across Africa’s Sahel, gunmen in Niger killed at least 58 people when they intercepted a convoy of four commercial transport vehicles carrying local civilians from a weekly market, and attacked nearby villages. The passengers were summarily executed, and homes and granaries put to the torch in the villages. The attacks took place in the Tillabéri region, near the flashpoint “tri-border area” where Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso come together. Militant groups linked to ISIS and al-Qaeda cross between all three countries. The CIA is stepping up drone surveillance flights from a base it has established at Dirkou, in Niger’s Agadez region. MQ-9 Reapers are stationed at the base, and armed strikes on militant targets are said to be under consideration pending a review by the Biden administration. (Photo: Airman Michelle Ulber via Israel Defense)

Greater Middle East
yemen

Biden pledges end to US support for Yemen war —almost

President Joe Biden announced the United States will end support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen that has deepened suffering in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country. “This war has to end,” Biden told diplomats in his first visit to the State Department as president, saying the conflict has created a “humanitarian and strategic catastrophe.” Biden pledged an end to “relevant” US arms sales, while giving no immediate details on what that would mean. However, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was quick to add that an end to US support for the Saudi war against the Houthi rebels will not affect US operations against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). (Photo: OCHA)

Iraq
iraq

Iraq issues arrest warrant for Trump

The Iraqi judiciary issued an arrest warrant for US President Donald Trump, for the killing of paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis last January. Trump is charged under Article 406 of the Iraqi Penal Code, which carries the death sentence in all cases of premeditated murder. Al-Muhandis died in the drone strike Trump ordered to kill Iranian major general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. Al-Muhandis was a top leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, a state-sanctioned umbrella organization that oversees an array of militias formed to fight the Islamic State. (Image: Pixabay)

Africa
Somalia

Trump announces (pseudo-) withdrawal from Somalia

President Trump has ordered the withdrawal of nearly all the approximately 700 US troops in Somalia by mid-January. But the troops are not coming back to the US—they will be stationed just outside Somalia’s borders, in Kenya and Djibouti, ready to go back in as circumstances mandate. Air-strikes and drone warfare are to continue. Also remaining in Somalia will be a team of Pentagon advisors and a significant force of private contractors from the DC-based firm Bancroft Global, working with a US-trained elite commando unit to fight al-Shabaab and ISIS insurgents. (Photo: Nick Kibbey/US Air Force via Military Times)

The Caucasus
tovuz

Armenia-Azerbaijan border as regional flashpoint

Several have been killed in ongoing clashes that broke out along the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan. An Azerbaijani general is among the dead in the heaviest fighting between the two nations in years. Villages in Azerbaijan’s northern Tovuz rayon (district) have come under artillery fire by Armenian forces, causing property damage. Officials in both countries blamed each other for starting the fighting. But some see an Armenian design to involve Russia in the conflict. This time the fighting is not in the contested enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, where Armenia does not have internationally recognized sovereignty. An attack there would fall outside the purview of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), of which Armenia is a member. Under Article 4 of the CSTO Charter, an attack on a member state is considered an attack against all members. (Photo: Axar.az)

Syria
Atmeh

Syria: protests against ex-Nusra rule in Idlib

Protesters gathered in the town of Atmeh in Syria’s opposition-held Idlib province to demand the release of a locally based British aid worker arrested by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Islamist militia formerly known as the Nusra Front that now controls much of the province. Tauqir Sharif, a British Muslim, was working with a grassroots aid and media group called Live Updates from Syria. He was detained by HTS in a raid on his home. Footage of the protest showed many women and children among dozens chanting and holding banners calling for Sharif to be freed. The crowd finally gathered outside the closed gates of a compound guarded by masked militiamen. Demonstrators also protested the closure of education and social services by HTS, chanting “We want schools to open.” (Photo via Middle East Eye)

Iran
Bombardment

Turkey, Iran in coordinated Iraq intervention

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry summoned both the Turkish and Iranian ambassadors to protest military operations both their countries launched on Iraqi territory, in a seemingly coordinated drive against revolutionary Kurdish forces. In a series of raids, Ankara’s warplanes and Tehran’s artillery targeted presumed strongholds of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), respectively. Local Kurdish and Yazidi communities reported that fields and woodlands had been set ablaze and families forced to flee by the bombardment. Turkey has also sent a contingent of special forces troops across the border into northern Iraq as a part of the operation, codenamed “Claw Eagle.” The troops are backed up by combat helicopters and drones. (Photo: Kurdistan24)