Central Asia
bishkek

Revolution in Kyrgyzstan: who is in control?

Protestors in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, occupied and set fire to the White House, the building that houses both the president’s office and parliamentary chamber. The headquarters of State Committee for National Security, which oversees the secret police, was also taken over. Opposition politicians imprisoned there were liberated—and one installed as prime minister, as contested election results were officially annulled. President Sooronbay Jeenbekov has gone into hiding, but released a statement from an undisclosed location claiming to be “in control.” Also released from secret police prison was his predecessor Almazbek Atambayev, who had tilted to Russia and booted the US from its airbase at Manas. Jeenbekov, in contrast, had been in a public spat with Vladimir Putin. With the current chaos in Washington, Moscow seems well-positioned to exploit the new upheaval in Kyrgyzstan. (Photo via Twitter)

The Caucasus
Nagorno-Karabakh

Campaign to recognize Republic of Artsakh

Amid renewed heavy fighting over the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, the enclave’s capital, Stepanakert, is coming under heavy shelling by Azerbaijan. The self-governing enclave within Azerbaijan has since 1994 been under the control of ethnic Armenians, who constitute the majority there, and have declared the de facto Republic of Artsakh. The National Assembly of Artsakh issued a statement accusing Azerbaijan of intentionally targeting civilians and using banned weaponry such as cluster munitions. The statement also accused Turkey of directing the offensive, and backing it up with mercenary fighters. The National Assembly called upon the international community to formally recognize the Republic of Artsakh as “the most effective way to put an end to the ongoing grave crimes against the peaceful population of Artsakh, and to protect their rights.” (Map: Wikipedia)

Afghanistan
Afghan army

Iraq and Afghanistan: US troops out, Chevron in?

Playing to anti-war sentiment just in time for the election, the Trump administration announces a draw-down of thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. This comes as Chevron has quietly signed an agreement with Iraq for the development of the massive Nassiriya oil-field. Chevron has also announced a new initiative with Kazakhstan, with an eye toward oil exports through a trans-Afghan pipeline. We’ve been hearing talk of a US “withdrawal” from Iraq and Afghanistan for years—but military advisors and contractors have always remained, and ground troops have always been sent back in again as soon as things start to get out of hand. And as long as oil money follows the military, that will always be the case. Don’t be fooled. (Photo: Army Amber via Pixaby)

North Africa
Libya Refinery

Russian mercenaries occupy Libyan oil terminals

Libya’s eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, his long siege of Tripoli broken by the city’s defenders in June, continues to hold the country’s principal oil terminals, and has established effective control over the Petroleum Facilities Guard. The UN this week brokered a ceasefire between Haftar and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, seeking to re-open exports from the terminals. Haftar agreed to the ceasefire after the US threatened sanctions against him. Russia, in turn, is apparently backing Haftar, sending arms and mercenaries to help his forces secure the terminals. Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group is especially said to be present at Es-Sider terminal, outside the port city of Ras Lanuf. (Photo via Libyan Express)

Europe
Minsk protest

Net silence as Belarus explodes into protest

Long-ruling strongman Alexander Lukashenko cut off internet across most of Belarus as the country explodes into angry protests in the wake of contested presidential elections. Riot police are unleashing harsh repression, using rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and water hoses against demonstrators. One person has been reported killed and many more wounded, including several police officers. According to preliminary results, Lukashenko won an unlikely 80% of the vote, with the main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya taking only 10%. Tikhanovskaya was a surprise replacement for her husband Sergei, a popular blogger who was arrested after he attempted to launch his candidacy. She held large rallies in Minsk and other cities, riding a groundswell of discontent with Lukashenko. (Photo: Meduza)

Afghanistan
Afghanistan

Is Russia really backing the Taliban?

The kneejerk squawking of “McCarthyism” any time new revelations of Moscow misdeeds emerge is tiresome and dangerous. But there is reason for skepticism about the claims that Russia is arming the Taliban in Afghanistan, and offering them a bounty to kill US troops. This makes little sense in terms of the regional alliances: US ally Pakistan has been the traditional patron of the Taliban, while Russia’s closest ally in the region is Iran, which opposes the Taliban on sectarian grounds. The notion that Moscow would do anything to strengthen the hand of Sunni extremism in a country where it faced its own counterinsurgency quagmire in the ’80s, and which still borders its “near abroad,” stretches credulity. (Photo of abandoned Soviet tank in Afghanistan via Wikimedia Commons)

East Asia
Tony Chung

Hong Kong elections postponed amid repression

Hong Kong authorities announced they will postpone Legislative Council elections originally scheduled for September by one year, citing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. The postponement comes after several opposition candidates had been barred from running, and several democracy activists were detained under the new National Security Law. Tony Chung, 19, of the pro-independence group StudentLocalism, became the first political figure to be arrested under the controversial law. (Photo of Tony Chung: HKFP)

Africa
Central African Republic

CAR: accused war criminal runs for president

Amid rising tensions and insecurity in the Central African Republic, deposed former president François BozizĂ© has announced his candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for December. BozizĂ© is currently under UN sanctions and subject to an arrest warrant issued by the government for “crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide.” He is accused of having backed a brutal rebel movement after his ouster in 2013, fueling a civil war that has left millions displaced. However, authorities show little sign of moving to execute the warrant, and BozizĂ© has been openly working for a political comeback since returning to the country last year. (Map via Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

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)

South Asia
Kashmir

Himalayan border conflicts escalate

China has mobilized thousands of troops backed up by armored vehicles to a contested area along the border with India in the Himalayas, where troops last month hurled stones at each other across the unmarked boundary known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The area in question is in the Galwan River valley between Ladakh, in Indian-administered Kashmir, and Chinese-administered Aksai Chin. Top generals from both sides held talks in Moldo, on the Chinese side, but tensions remain high. India charges that Chinese forces are hindering patrols by its troops along the LAC in Ladakh and Sikkim, and refutes Beijing’s claim that Indian forces have crossed to the Chinese side. (Map via Wikipedia)

East Asia
nimitz

US-China brinkmanship over Taiwan

In an alarming tit-for-tat, Taiwan’s defense ministry said that several Chinese fighter jets briefly entered the country’s air defense identification zone, and the US took the unusual move of flying a C-40A military transport plane over Taiwan. The US overflight was assailed by Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office as “an illegal act and a seriously provocative incident.” This comes as the US is deploying three aircraft carrier strike groups to the Pacific—the first such triple deployment in three years, seen as an explicit warning to China. The deployment follows accusations by Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, commander of US forces in Japan, that China is using the COVID-19 crisis as a cover to push territorial claims in the South China Sea. (Photo of USS Nimitz: US Navy via USNI News)

North Africa
haftar

Libya: Haftar’s forces retreat from Tripoli

Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) regained full control of Tripoli with the recapture of the city’s airport—the last pocket held by the eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, whose forces had been besieging the capital since April 2019. Haftar’s forces fled east toward Tarhouna and Bani Walid, their last remaining strongholds in the west, with the GNA forces in pursuit. The GNA advance, dubbed Operation Volcano of Rage, follows reports last month that mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group, who had been fighting for Haftar, were being evacuated from Libya. This suggests that Russian support for Haftar may have been sacrificed in Moscow’s new rapprochement with Turkey, the main foreign sponsor of the GNA. (Photo: Libya Observer)