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‚ÄĒbut 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)

Syria
Tal Al-Zahab

Syria: US troops clash with Assad regime forces

US troops clashed with an Assad regime unit in northeast Syria, an incident that illustrates the uneasy patchwork of power in the region. One regime soldier was reportedly killed and two wounded. Both Pentagon and Damascus accounts agreed the confrontation began when a joint convoy of US and Kurdish forces encountered a regime roadblock, but differed on which side fired first. The regime also claimed a US warplane fired on the roadblock, contrary to the Pentagon account. US-backed Kurdish forces have controlled much of the northeast since driving out the Islamic State last year. However, the regime, supported by Russia, also occupied part of the area as ISIS was defeated. (Photo: QalaatM via Twitter)

North Africa
JNIM

Mali: now a three-way war ‚ÄĒor four?

Jihadist militants continue to wage a low-level insurgency in Mali, targetting government troops and their French allies. Last week, the Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (JNIM) claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on French forces. But internecine fighting between jihadist factions also takes an increasing toll. Since an apparent truce broke down this year, there have been repeated clashes between JINM, an al-Qaeda affiliate, and the self-declared Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. Amid all this, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), seeking self-rule for the Tuareg people in the desert north, maintains a precarious independence from both the jihadist and government forces. In a statement, the MNLA accused the government of fomenting conflict in the region as a strategy to avoid ceding autonomy to the Tuaregs, as mandated by a 2015 peace accord. The statement warned that the MNLA will not surrender its arms until terms of the accord are instated. (Photo of JNIM militants via Long War Journal)

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)

Africa
ISIS Nigeria

ISIS franchise claims attack on Nigerian military

The self-proclaimed Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) issued a statement claiming its fighters killed 40 Nigerian soldiers in an ambush along the Damboa-Maiduguri highway in northern Borno state. The statement said ISWAP fighters captured five all-terrain vehicles, weapons and ammunition, and burned an armored vehicle during the attack. The Nigerian military confirmed the attack but said only two soldiers were killed. Boko Haram has now split into two factions. One, under longtime leader Abubakar Shekau, is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians. Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2015, but ISIS only recognizes the rival faction, which calls itself ISWAP. (Photo: Sahara Reporters)

Watching the Shadows
neo-Nazis

State Department sees global ‘white supremacist’ threat

The US State Department’s newly released “Country Reports on Terrorism 2019” makes special note for the first time of an international white supremacist threat. The report states that the Department’s Counterterrorism¬†Bureau “increased its efforts to combat racially or ethnically motivated terrorism (REMT). REMT, in particular white supremacist terrorism, continues to be a threat to the global community, with violence both on the rise and spreading geographically.” Given that this report is released just as Trump is becoming more blatant than ever in his own espousal of white supremacy, we must ask if this is not another example of the “Deep State” (read: those elements of the bureaucracy not completely co-opted by his dictatorial agenda) acting independently of the White House‚ÄĒor even, as the deplorables love to fear, actually seeking to subvert it.¬†(Photo via Germ)

Africa
Mali troops

Sahel security forces accused of war crimes

Soldiers rampaging through villages in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have unlawfully killed or forcibly disappeared at least 199 people between February and April 2020, Amnesty International said in a new briefing. Some of the killings amount to extrajudicial executions and among the victims are internally displaced persons. The deliberate killings of unarmed civilians by security forces could meet the qualification of war crimes. (Photo: Magharebia via Wikimedia Commons)

North Africa
Intikane

Deadly attack on Niger refugee camp

More than a thousand people are on the run following a brutal attack on a camp for refugees and displaced persons in western Niger. Three were killed and several others wounded as over 50 gunmen on motorbikes swarmed into the camp at Intikane village, near the Malian border. The camp housed some 20,000 refugees from Mali and an additional 15,000 internally displaced persons from within Niger, including many ethnic Tuaregs, who have fled fighting in their own communities. In addition to killing three, the assailants torched food supplies and other aid. They also destroyed mobile phone towers and the main water pumping station and pipes. Although no group has been named in the attack, numerous armed factions with links to either al-Qaeda or ISIS have been mounting an insurgency across the Sahel over the past years, despite the presence of thousands of regional and foreign troops in a multinational military campaign to suppress them. (Photo: UNHCR via Flickr)

Syria
afrin blast

Syrian Kurds condemn ‘terrorist act’ in Afrin

Syrian Kurdish officials¬†condemned the bombing in the Turkish-occupied city of¬†Afrin that claimed the lives of at least 40 civilians, including 12 children. The explosive device was attached to an oil tanker and detonated as it drove through a crowded market. “We in the Syrian Democratic Council condemn and denounce this cowardly terrorist act that targeted innocent civilians and threatens the remaining ones to move and leave their villages and cities,” the SDC, political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said in a statement. But Turkish administrators in the town blamed the attack on Kurdish guerillas of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), leading constituent militia of the¬†SDF. (Photo via¬†Kurdistan24)

Iraq
Yazidis

First Yazidi genocide trial opens in Germany

The trial of an accused former high-ranking ISIS member charged with taking part in the genocide of the Yazidi people of northern Iraq opened in Frankfurt. The suspect, identified only as Taha al-J., is under indictment in the murder of a five-year-old girl who he had “purchased” along with her mother at a “slave market” in 2015. He faces charges under Germany’s Code of Crimes Against International Law, which extends “universal jurisdiction” for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Syria
Syrian refugee children

From revolution to genocide: Syria’s grim anniversary

Nine years ago this week, the Syrian Revolution began with peaceful pro-democracy protests. The first demonstrations broke out in the city of Deraa after local schoolchildren painted a mural depicting scenes and slogans from the recent revolutions in other Arab countries, and were detained and brutalized by the police. The Bashar Assad regime responded to the demonstrations with serial massacres. After months of this, the Free Syrian Army emerged, initially as a self-defense militia to protect protesters. But the situation soon escalated to an armed insurgency. The regime lost control of areas of the country, and local civil resistance committees backed by the FSA seized control. Assad then escalated to levels of violence rarely seen on Earth since World War II. (Photo of refugee children on Jordanian border: Peter Biro/ECHO via The New Humanitarian)

Syria
Syria oil map

Great powers jockey for control of Syrian oil

In his talks with Vladimir Putin on their carve-up of northern Syria, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proposed joint Russian-Turkish control of the oil-fields in Deir ez-Zor province, now under the control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Wall Street Journal meanwhile reports that the SDF is selling oil from the those fields to the Assad regime. This is certainly an absurd irony, as US forces are backing up the SDF in control of the fields. Further evidence that, rhetoric and even official policy notwithstanding, the US is actually tilting to Assad in the Syrian war. The sales would appear to be another bid by the Kurds to win a separate peace with the Assad regime now that they are caught between foreign powers. The bitter irony is that Assad, ultimately, is also hostile to Kurdish autonomy. (Map: Energy Consulting Group)