Afghanistan
afghanistan

Afghanistan: Taliban seize provincial capitals

Taliban forces have dramatically stepped up their rapid advance across Afghanistan, seizing 11 capitals of the country’s 34 provinces. Herat and Ghazni, a strategic gateway to the national capital Kabul, were the most recent to fall. The northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif is besieged, and India’s military is mobilizing an airlift to evacuate the country’s nationals there. Kandahar, in the Taliban’s southern heartland, is also the scene of heavy fighting, as is Lashkar Gah, capital of adjoining province of that name. Reports of rights violations that “could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity” have emerged from areas under Taliban control. More than 359,000 Afghans have been displaced this year, bringing the total displaced in the country to over 5 million. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Afghanistan
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)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

‘Imminent humanitarian crisis’ in Afghanistan

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned of an “imminent humanitarian crisis” in Afghanistan as mounting conflict gives rise to suffering and displacement. An estimated 270,000 have been newly displaced since January, bringing the total uprooted population to over 3.5 million. The number of civilian casualties has risen 29% during the first quarter of this year compared to 2020. The UNHCR stressed its underfunded financial appeal for Afghanistan, which now stands at 43% of the total $337 million required. The agency urged the international community to support Afghanistan “in a spirit of solidarity and burden-sharing.” (Photo of displaced persons camp in Herat: Stefanie Glinski/TNH)

Afghanistan
Ghor women

Afghan women take up arms against Taliban

As the US withdraws and the Taliban advance across large stretches of Afghanistan, women are taking up weapons in local militias to defend their villages. In Ghor province, ethnic Hazara women posed for social-media photos wielding rifles and rocket-launchers, pledging to resist by arms a return to “the dark era of Taliban.” With US and NATO forces evacuating Bagram Air Base, prelude to a full withdrawal by September, the Taliban are rapidly seizing territory. Since launching a spring offensive, the Taliban have doubled their area of control, and now hold nearly 100 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts. In retreat, the central government is calling upon civilians to form militias to fight back. (Photo via Twitter)

Iran
syria

Biden’s air-strikes bode poorly for Iran nuke deal

US warplanes carried out strikes on Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq. The Pentagon said the targets were arms depots in the border area used by the militias Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, which have carried out attacks against US personnel in Iraq for years. The militias have vowed to avenge the air-strikes. The strikes followed talks in Vienna on the Iran nuclear deal, including US re-entry, lifting of sanctions, and an Iranian return to compliance with limits on uranium enrichment. The discussions adjourned over a week ago, with Iranian officials saying a deal could be reached in the next round. However, since then, both Tehran and Washington have taken tougher public positions. (Image: Pixabay)

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)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Afghan pullout: unanswered questions for civilians

Afghanistan now has a clearer timeline for when US and international troops will leave, but the questions surrounding what this means for civilians and aid operations in the country remain the same. US President Joe Biden confirmed plans to withdraw American forcesbefore Sept. 11—the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that led to the Afghanistan invasion. NATO also said 9,500 international soldiers—including 2,500 US troops—would leave, beginning May 1. But the implications of the pullout are as volatile as they were when Biden’s predecessor first inked a peace deal with the Taliban last year. Will the Taliban pursue a decisive military victory or continue with sporadic peace negotiations with the government? How will women and minorities fare? How will this affect local and international aid operations, and the roughly 16 million Afghans—more than 40% of the population—who rely on humanitarian relief? Will there be a future for reconciliation after decades of war? And what about the militias still active in many areas? More than 1,700 civilians were killed or injured in conflict in the first three months of 2021, the UN said the same day as Biden’s announcement. (Photo of displaced persons camp in Herat: Stefanie Glinski/TNH)

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)

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)

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)

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)

Afghanistan
Afghanistan

Will human rights be betrayed in US-Taliban deal?

More than a year of US-Taliban negotiations bore formal fruit with the signing in Doha of what is being called a “peace deal” by Washington’s envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The pact calls for the US to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan in 14 months if the Taliban fulfills its commitments under the agreement. “Intra-Afghan” talks are to follow, with the aim of negotiating a permanent ceasefire. Amnesty International, however, raised concerns about what the  deal could mean for Afghanistan’s women and religious minorities, urging: “Any peace process involving the parties to the conflict in Afghanistan must not ignore the voice of victims.” (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)