Syria
Saydnaya

US imposes sanctions on Syria prisons, rebels

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on eight prisons run by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s intelligence unit, for human rights abuses against political prisoners and other detainees. Additionally, OFAC added five senior security officials of Assad’s regime who control the detention facilities to the Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals & Blocked Persons List. According to OFAC, the regime has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Syrians during the war, of whom at least 14,000 have been tortured to death, with a further 130,000 missing and believed to be under arbitrary detention. OFAC also placed sanctions on Syrian armed rebel group Ahrar al-Sharqiya and two of its leaders for abuses against civilians. (Image: Syria Untold)

Africa
iswap

ISIS franchise takes insurgency to Cameroon

The under-reported conflict in Cameroon’s Far North Region is heating up, as an ISIS franchise has usurped leadership of the local Boko Haram insurgency. Five soldiers and a civilian were killed this week in a raid on an army post near the Nigerian border. The heavily-armed insurgents are believed to be from the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP). The group has “regained strength following internal restructuring,” according to the Cameroonian defense ministry—a reference to the death in May of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, and the absorption of his forces by ISWAP. (Photo: ISS Africa)

Afghanistan

Podcast: Afghanistan and the politics of withdrawal

In Episode 82 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out the Orwellian pronouncements from media and politicians that Biden is “ending the war” in Afghanistan—as the war is actually escalating. This is the same imperial narcissism we heard with the much-hyped US “withdrawal” from Afghanistan in 2014, and the US “withdrawal” from Iraq in 2011. In both cases, the war went on—and actually got worse, with the emergence of ISIS and the genocide of the Yazidis. Weinberg recalls with grim vindication that he similarly called out the glib optimism about a  withdrawal from Iraq in CounterVortex commentaries during the occupation. Meanwhile, Hazara women—who face the threat of genocide if the Taliban re-take power—are arming to resist the Taliban advance. The critical task now is to loan what solidarity and visibility we can to such efforts—not to engage in hubristic crowing about the “end of the war.” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Syria
Raqqa

Survivors struggle four years after battle of Raqqa

Children in Raqqa, northeast Syria, are still living among ruins, with limited water, electricity, and access to education, four years after the city was taken from ISIS, according to a new report by Save the Children. Thousands of people have returned to Raqqa since the battle for the city ended in 2017. But levels of rebuilding and rehabilitation of housing remain low, with children living in constant fear of their homes collapsing on top of them. Research estimates that 36% of the city’s buildings remain entirely destroyed. At the peak of the bombing campaign, Raqqa faced 150 air-strikes a day. (Photo: Mahmoud Bali/VOA via Wikimedia)

Iraq
mosul

ISIS regroups amid slow rebuilding in Iraq

A suicide bomb killed at least 30 in Baghdad, exploding in a busy market as people prepared for the Eid al-Adha holiday. The so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blast. Nearly four years after the liberation of Mosul, remnants of the militant organization are regrouping to stage scattered attacks across the country. And Iraq has yet to recover from the fight against ISIS. In a new report from the Norwegian Refugee Council, Mosul residents offer sobering testimony on the challenge of trying to restart their lives despite a failure to rebuild much of the city’s devastated homes, infrastructure, and economy. There are still around 1.2 million Iraqis displaced across the country, including 257,000 in Nineveh province, where Mosul sits. Aid groups warn that these people are being exposed to new risks as camps close, leaving some with nowhere to go. (Photo: Tom Peyre-Costa/NRC via ReliefWeb)

Iraq
Yazidi genocide

‘Clear and convincing’ evidence of Yazidi genocide

The head of a UN team investigating the atrocities by the Islamic State in Iraq & the Levant (ISIL), Special Advisor Karim Khan, reported to the UN Security Council that the team has established “clear and convincing” evidence of genocide against the Yazidi religious minority. The UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) has finalized preliminary case briefs on two key priorities: the attacks against the Yazidi community in the Sinjar region of Iraq starting in June 2014, and the mass killing that month of predominantly Shia unarmed cadets and military personnel at Iraq’s Tikrit Air Academy. (Photo via Ezidikhan Public Information Bureau)

Afghanistan
Sayed ul-Shuhada

Afghanistan: schoolgirls massacred amid ‘peace’ talks

An attack on a high school in Afghanistan’s capital killed at least 50 and wounded dozens more—most of them girls who were leaving class. The school is in Kabul’s western Dasht-e-Barchi district, where many residents are of the Hazara ethnic minority, who were subject to genocide under Taliban rule in the 1990s. The students appear to have been doubly targeted as both girls and Hazaras—raising further questions for the status and security of women and ethnic minorities as the power-brokers race to declare “peace” in Afghanistan. (Photo of girls from the targeted school: HRW via Twitter)

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)

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)