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
afghanistan

Podcast: against Afghanistan revisionism

In Episode 87 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out revisionist online propaganda telling us (for instance) that Ronald Reagan in 1985 called the Taliban the “equivalent of America’s Founding Fathers”—when the Taliban actually didn’t even exist back then, and he actually said that about the Nicaraguan Contras. Meanwhile, the more idiotic sectors of the “anti-imperialist” left, which proclaimed “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan” during the Soviet intervention 40 years ago, are now taking unabashed glee at the Taliban takeover. Rather than viewing the Afghan people as pawns on the geopolitical chessboard or fodder for cheap propaganda, Weinberg calls for active solidarity with groups like the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), and the feminists and secularists who have chosen to stay behind and continue speaking out—at great risk to themselves. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Afghanistan: no, the war is not over

With absurd hubris, Biden in his speech as the last US troops left Kabul declared that “the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan.” It’s perverse enough that he called the US evacuation of some 120,000 Afghans and Americans an “extraordinary success”—despite the fact that more than 100 US nationals and many thousands of desperate Afghans were left behind. But this reality-denying “ended the war” rhetoric is being uncritically echoed by media accounts. The war in Afghanistan began in 1979, with the massive Soviet military intervention to put down the Mujahedeen, and the country hasn’t seen a moment of peace since then. Nor is there much prospect for peace any time in foreseeable future. This is the same imperial narcissism we heard with the much-hyped US “withdrawal” from Afghanistan in 2014, and the “withdrawal” from Iraq in 2011. But this time, Afghanistan is essentially being turned over to the Taliban as a US-collaborationist or even near-proxy force to fight ISIS. The Taliban remain a brutal, intolerant and ultra-reactionary Islamist entity, but are now baited as co-opted moderates by the even more extremist ISIS. (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)

North Africa
kabylia fire

Algiers plays politics with Morocco as Kabylia burns

At least 90 people have been killed in wildfires that have swept through northern Algeria over the past weeks. The blazes have consumed some 100,000 acres, mostly in the northeastern Kabylia region. While remaining silent on the role of climate change, the Algerian government is exploiting the disaster for political purposes. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said the fires were “criminal” in origin, and blamed them on regional rival Morocco. Authorities have arrested several presumed members of the Kabylia Self-Determination Movement (MAK), a civil organization seeking independence for the predominantly Berber region. The DGSN security agency said the suspects were part of a “terrorist organization.” Last month, Algiers recalled its ambassador in Rabat in protest of Moroccan diplomatic statements in support of self-determination for the Berbers of Kabylia. (Photo via Twitter)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Podcast: Afghanistan and the Great Game

In Episode 85 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the implications for world peace and the prospects for survival of basic freedoms as the Taliban consolidate their second period of rule in Afghanistan. There are already signs that Russia and China are seeking to groom the Taliban as proxies against the US and the West, with (inevitably) the dream of a trans-Afghanistan pipeline route still a part of the agenda. The US, in turn, could start backing the incipient armed resistance, already organizing in the Panjshir Valley. The task for progressives in the West now is to loan what solidarity we can with the civil resistance—the secularists and feminists who are already defying Taliban rule on the ground across Afghanistan. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Palestine
Daraa

Syria: southern ceasefire breaking down

Fighting has erupted again in the southern Syrian town of Daraa, where an opposition-controlled neighborhood is resisting pressure to disarm. Assad regime forces placed the area, Daraa al-Balad, under military siege in late June, and escalated to intermittent shelling of the enclave. A new ceasefire was brokered by pro-regime Russian forces, under which the opposition would begin the process of disarming but maintain some autonomy within the area. However, the ceasefire broke down almost immediately—allegedly due to violations by Iran-backed militias fighting for the regime. Shelling of the neighborhood has since resumed. The UN relief agency UNRWA has especially expressed concern for the some 3,000 Palestinian refugees living in a camp within the besieged area. UNRWA reports that water and electricity are completely cut off inside the camp. (Map: Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
Djibouti

Djibouti: Horn of Africa’s next domino?

At least three people are dead following an outbreak of inter-communal violence in Djibouti. Fighting erupted in several areas between members of the Afar ethnic group, which straddles Djibouti’s borders with Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the Issa, the country’s other main ethnicity, which is a sub-group of the Somali people and straddles the borders with Ethiopia and Somalia. Issa protesters blocked the rail line and road connecting Djibouti’s port to Ethiopia, a key artery for the landlocked Horn of Africa giant. The violence came in response to a deadly attack on Somali Issa civilians four days earlier within Ethiopia. Fighters from Ethiopia’s Afar region raided the town of Gedamaytu (also known as Gabraiisa) in neighboring Somali region, reportedly killing hundreds of residents. The two regions have long been at odds over three contested kebeles (districts) on their shared border, which are predominately inhabited by Issa but located within the regional boundaries of Afar. (Map: ISS Africa)

Syria
syria refugees

Syria: Russia plays ‘political games’ with aid access

The UN Security Council unanimously voted to extend the sole humanitarian aid crossing into Syria—one day before it was set to close. The vote on the Bab al-Hawa crossing came after weeks of intense negotiations between Washington, which wants to expand the number of aid corridors into Syria, and Moscow, which had threatened to block continuation of the aid program altogether in the name of protecting Syrian sovereignty. Some 1,000 truckloads of aid pass through Bab al-Hawa each month—and humanitarian agencies say this is insufficient to address the scale of the disaster in Syria’s north. In 2014, the Security Council approved four border crossings for aid into Syria. But Russia has since used its veto to restrict aid access to the rebel-held north, leaving only Bab al-Hawa open. (Photo: UNICEF via UN News)

North Africa

Will Biden reverse Trump policy on Western Sahara?

US-led forces are currently carrying out war games in Morocco, the periodic “Afrian Lion” exercises—this year taking place near the disputed region of Western Sahara. Morocco is trumpeting this as a re-affirmation of US recognition of its claim to the territory. The Trump administration last year formally recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for Moroccan diplomatic recognition of Israel as a part of the so-called Abraham Accords. But Spain, the disputed territory’s former colonial ruler, is opposing Morocco’s current push for international recognition of its claim. Just before the war games opened, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya called US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging him to reverse Washington’s recognition of Moroccan rule in Western Sahara. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Europe
Srebrenica

Bosnia genocide conviction: Russia cries foul

Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic lost his appeal of a 2017 conviction for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) upheld the life sentence for his role in the killing of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995. The Chamber also upheld his convictions for persecution of Bosnian Muslims and Croats, and terrorizing the population of Sarajevo with a campaign of shelling and sniping during the siege of the city. The Chamber also reaffirmed his acquittal on charges of carrying out genocide in five other Bosnian municipalities in 1992—a disappointment for surviving residents. However, Russia’s Foreign Ministry protested the upholding of the convictions, accusing the The Hague court of “hypocrisy.” (Photo of Srebrenica Genocide Memorial via Wikipedia)