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)

Afghanistan
Kunar

Afghanistan headed for four-way war?

Five months after Afghanistan’s presidential elections, a winner has finally been declared—the incumbent, Ashraf Ghani. But hours after the announcement, rival Abdullah Abdullah declared himself the victor, claiming irregularities in the vote and calling the results “national treason.” The showdown portends a divided government just as US is attempting to broker a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, ostensibly to be followed by “intra-Afghan talks” between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. In addition to the ongoing war with the Taliban, NATO-backed government forces are continuing to battle the Islamic State’s “Khorasan Province” in Afghanistan. Following a long offensive, President Ghani in November triumphantly declared that ISIS had been “obliterated.” However, air-strikes continue against the group in its remaining stronghold in the Spin Ghar mountains of eastern Kunar province. (Map via Khaama Press)

Iran
soleimani

Trump and Soleimani: clash of barbarisms

Donald Trump and the man he executed in a targeted assassination, Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani, mirror each other as war criminals who treat the people of Iraq and the greater region as pawns in their power game. In fact, they were long de facto allies—Soleimani had been overseeing a “dirty war” in Iraq against Sunni militants and suspected ISIS sympathizers. His allied paramilitary forces have serially massacred anti-government protesters in Baghdad. In less explicit alignment with Washington, Soleimani provided similar services on a far greater scale to the Bashar Assad dictatorship in Syria. This is why all the media talk (echoing Trump) about how he “killed Americans” reeks of racism and imperial narcissism. However many US troops Soleimani may have been responsible for killing, this was the least of his massive crimes. Similarly, calling him a “terrorist,” implying he was responsible for attacks on Westerners (always the connotation of that label in mainstream Western discourse), is a vast understatement. He was worse than a terrorist: he was a war criminal. And so is Trump—in his destruction of ISIS-held Raqqa and Mosul (which could only have cheered Soleimani), in his targeted-assassination drone strikes, and now in his threat to bomb Iranian cultural sites. (Photo: Iran Briefing)

Afghanistan

Trump-Taliban schmooze: don’t call it ‘peace’

The utterly surreal news that Taliban leaders were invited to Camp David—a week before the 9-11 commemoration, no less!—will further fuel the perverse fantasy that Trump is a hippie pacifist. But the supposed “peace” talks with the Taliban completely sidelined Afghanistan’s actual government and civil society alike—and were bitterly protested by Afghan women and their advocates. It was to be a “peace” crafted by genocidal clerical-reactionaries and imperialists, with the actual aim to prosecute a war on their mutual enemy, the ISIS insirgency that has now emerged in the country.  ISIS are now the “bad” (undomesticated) clerical reactionaries, who will not abandon their ambitions to attack the West. This only sends the message (entirely accurate, from the imperial persepctive) that Western lives matter, and Afghan lives do not.  (Photo: Khaama Press)

Iraq

Yazidis fear renewed genocide

Authorities in Ezidikhan, the self-declared Yazidi autonomous homeland in northern Iraq, appointed an Investigative Team on Genocide, primarily looking at massacres and enslavement that targeted the Yazidi people when ISIS was in control of their territory. But the team will also examine possible crimes and complicity by the Iraqi national government, its allied paramilitary forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and foreign powers such as Turkey. The body is cooperating with the UN investigative team also working in the area, with an eye toward eventual establishment of an International Tribunal on Genocide for Yezidi and Neighboring Peoples. Yazidi leaders in the international diaspora are meanwhile expressing concern that the announced US withdrawal from Syria could lead to an ISIS resurgence—potentially threatening Yazidis both sides of the border. (Photo via Ezidikhan Public Information Bureau)

Afghanistan

Report: Afghan government control lowest yet

In its latest quarterly report to Congress, the US watchdog for Afghan reconstruction finds that the security situation is at an all-time low since monitoring began. Since the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) began tracking district control in 2015, Afghan government-controlled or "influenced" districts have declined 16% to 55.5%. In the same period, areas of insurgent control or influence rose 5.5% while "contested" districts increased 11%. As of late July, the US military assessed that the Kabul government controls or influences 226 of Afghanistan's 407 districts, while the Taliban controls/influences 49. The remaining 132 districts are identified as "contested." Since the prior quarterly report, Operation Resolute Support downgraded eight districts from "government influenced" to "contested." SIGAR said Afghan security forces "made minimal or no progress in pressuring the Taliban" in the period covered by the report. (Photo via Stars & Stripes)