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 TillabĂ©ri 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)

Africa
JCET

US, Portugal send special forces to Mozambique

A week after the US State Department added the Islamist insurgents in northern Mozambique to its list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” the Pentagon is now preparing to send a team of military advisors into the conflict zone. The US Embassy in Maputo announced that the two-month Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program will see US Special Forces troops instructing Mozambican marines. This follows an announcement by Portugal, the former colonial power in Mozambique, that it is dispatching an elite military unit to help fight the insurgents, known locally as the Shabaab. Lisbon is also petitioning the European Union to send a military mission to the region to back up the Mozambique Armed Defense Forces. (Photo: US Embassy in Mozambique)

Syria
syria betrayed

Ten years after: the Syrian Revolution betrayed

Ten years after the Syrian Revolution began with peaceful anti-regime protests, the UN Human Rights Commission released a report finding that actions by the Assad regime and its Russian allies over the course of the Syrian war have likely constituted “crimes against humanity, war crimes and other international crimes, including genocide.” The UN and human rights groups have issued such findings repeatedly—to little media coverage. The charge of genocide officially requires the world to act under the Genocide Convention. But the world is no longer even paying attention. (Image: Delawer Omar)

Afghanistan
afghan army

Afghanistan: US withdrawal on hold?

With a May 1 deadline for withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan approaching but a final peace deal stalled, the White House is said to be considering an extension beyond this date for removal of its 2,500 troops remaining in the country. “Intra-Afghan” negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul opened in Doha in September, but remain deadlocked over fundamentals of the power-sharing deal—with the Taliban rejecting President Ashraf Ghani’s insistence on remaining in office for the remainder his five-year-term. Predictably, they haven’t even got around to discussing protection of minority and women’s rights, or the role of sharia law in the new order. Meanwhile, civilian casualties are mounting, and the Taliban has just launched a spring offensive. (Photo: Khaama Press)

Iran
syria

Biden’s first air-strikes: the Great Game in Syria

In the first air-strikes on Syria under the Joseph Biden administration, US warplanes struck positions of Iran-backed militia forces at a Revolutionary Guards base near the Iraqi border in the country’s desert east. The Pentagon said the strikes “destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups,” including Kataib Hezbollah. It was also a Tehran-backed paramilitary formation that claimed responsibility for last week’s missile attack on the US airbase at Erbil, in northern Iraq. The US bombing an Iran-backed militia in retaliation for an attack in Iraq is a textbook example of how Syria has been turned into a playing field in the Great Power game. (Image: Pixabay)

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)

South Asia
hazara

Pakistan: Hazara massacre sparks hunger strike

Members of Pakistan’s Hazara people have launched a sit-in and public hunger strike after a massacre targeted the Shi’ite minority at a coal-field in a remote area of Balochistan province. Hundreds have been blocking a major thoroughfare through the provincial capital, Quetta. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid was sent in to meet with a delegation of the Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen, the organization leading the sit-in, but his offer of compensation to victims’ families was rebuffed. In the attack, armed men rounded up miners from worker housing at the coal-field. Those determined to be Hazara, 11 in all, were marched into the hills and summarily shot. Many had their throats slit or were otherwise mutilated. The local franchise of the “Islamic State” claimed responsibility for the massacre. Families of the victims are refusing to bury their loved ones, but have brought the bodies to the site of the sit-in, demanding the Balochistan government either arrest the killers or resign. (Photo via Twitter)

Africa
Mali

UN to investigate ‘crimes against humanity’ in Mali

UN investigators into political violence in Mali reported to the Security Council that they found evidence that government forces have committed “war crimes,” while jihadists and other armed groups perpetrated “crimes against humanity.” The allegations are made in a 338-page report compiled by the International Commission of Inquiry, a panel examining events in Mali over the six years after it spiralled into conflict in 2012. The report, which has not yet been made public, recommends establishing a special court to try accused perpetrators. But the recommendations are being met with some wariness in Mali. The opposition Rally of Patriotic Forces demands that foreign militaries operating in the country be covered in the scope of the investigation—including France. (Photo via Andy Morgan Writes)

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)

Africa
Cabo Delgado

Mozambique conflict draws in neighboring countries

Jihadist insurgents variously calling themselves “al-Shabaab” or the “Islamic State Central Africa Province” are fast escalating brutal attacks in Mozambique’s oil-rich Cabo Delgado province, in the north of the country. In twin attacks last week, more than 50 residents were beheaded in Muatide village, where militants turned a football field into an “execution ground,” and several more were beheaded and houses put to the torch in Nanjaba village. Last month, hundreds of insurgents crossed the Ruvuma River into Tanzania, and attacked the border village of Kitaya, beheading 20 residents. Landlocked Zimbabwe, which depends on unimpeded passage through Mozambique for access to the sea, has broached military intervention, and is seeking approval for joint action from the Southern African Development Community (SADC). (Photo via ISS Africa)

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)