Here’s your Situation Update for February 23, 2018

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Russian Ministry of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings. The scope of these posts will cover small wars, but don’t size shame them. Thanks.

The weather forecast this morning is overcast with a 20% chance of mid-afternoon existential crisis. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

The United Nations Security Council fails to pass a resolution imposing a ceasefire in Syria that would have allowed humanitarian aid to be delivered to a Damascus suburb that has been relentlessly bombed by the Syrian government for nearly a week. The death and destruction there is unimaginable and hundreds of civilians including women and children have been killed. Russia, who supports the Assad government, blocked the resolution.

Pro-government forces enter Syria’s Afrin despite being initially repelled by Turkish forces. The Assad-aligned militias entered the northern province to support the Kurdish residents who have been under siege by Turkey. The Turkish military entered Syria in a campaign to fight the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, also known as the YPG. This adds another layer to the strained alliances in the region because now the American-allied YPG is receiving support from pro-Assad militias who are aligned with nominal American enemies like Russia and Iran. Meanwhile, Turkey, a member of NATO, is still bent on destroying the American ally. Receiving support from anti-American militias in Syria may make it difficult for American volunteers in the YPG to return to the U.S. legally.

The U.S. successfully added Pakistan to a terrorism financier list after Saudi Arabia backed down from its previous attempts to block the move. Pakistan’s placement on the list will make it more difficult to borrow money internationally.

Car bombs kill 18 and injure 20 more in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. The Islamist militant group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Swedish Armed Forces request to more than double its budget by 2035, noting Russian military action in Europe.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section. Self-affirmations may also be posted in the comments section. You’re amazing.  To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Monday, February 26th, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 22, 2018

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Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings. The scope of these posts will cover wars small in name, but big in our imaginations and defense budgets.

The weather forecast this morning is cold with a 50% chance of misunderstanding the context of historical events. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

A bomb in northern Myanmar killed two and injured 22 at a bank on Wednesday. The bombing was not claimed, but Myanmar has many armed groups representing ethnic minorities in its northern frontier. The ethnic minorities claim that Myanmar’s government is persecuting and displacing them and using examples of violence like this bombing to justify it. Myanmar is also home to the Rohingya, ethnic Muslims who live in Western Myanmar, who were recently displaced by the government in what the Western media has called a genocide.

Stealth fighters are in the Middle East and they aren’t American suggest pictures that Russia deployed its latest-generation Su-57 to Syria. Some analysts are worried this may prove Russia is preparing for a wider regional conflict there. It may also be to test their capabilities in a live war lab like the U.S. has done in Afghanistan by bombing drug laboratories with stealth F-22s.

I keep writing about the devastating violence in a Damascus suburb and there’s not much left to say. The United Nations recently delivered a blank statement as a symbol for the horror there that left them speechless. So here are some photos of the senseless and total destruction.

Saudi Arabia joined Turkey and China efforts to block the U.S. from adding Pakistan to an official international financier of terrorism list. Pakistan recently pledged 1000 troops to support Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. The U.S., Saudia Arabia, and Pakistan all worked together to finance what wasn’t yet popularly known as terrorism in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989 when they armed and trained jihadists against the Soviet Union.

A Yugoslav veteran attacked the U.S. embassy in Montenegro then blew himself up. The man as served an anti-air gunner during the NATO bombing of then-Yugoslavia. Montenegro joined NATO last year.

The 76 girls missing after a Boko Haram raid in Nigeria were reported rescued by the Nigerian government. But when Nigerian officials visited the villages where the missing girls were from, they admitted that they are still missing.

A Basque separatist group in Spain plans to vote to dissolve itself by this summer. The group, known as the ETA, killed more than 850 people in a campaign for independence from Spain and France over the last half-century. It voluntarily disarmed itself last year proving insurgencies can and do end.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section. Answers may be given, but philosophy begins in wonder.  To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Friday, February 23rd, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 21, 2018

Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that runs weekday mornings (except when it doesn’t, like yesterday). The scope of these posts will cover small wars with big budgets.

The weather forecast this morning is freezing with a 40% chance of a disappointment over things you can’t control. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

The Syrian government is killing people by the hundreds in a Damascus suburb including women, children, and aid workers. The Syrian government has vowed “no quarter” in the rebel-held area. Civilians were never allowed to evacuate. The Syrian government is targeting civilian populations and hospitals. One video uploaded to Twitter showed a now common “double tap” tactic, where an air strike is followed by a second after rescue workers respond to the scene.

The Taliban overran three checkpoints in Western Afghanistan killing 20 police officers. The fighters were wearing night vision goggles. This is the second attack in the area by Taliban fighters wearing night vision devices. The police officers do not have night vision devices themselves. This tactical advantage was once enjoyed by American forces over its enemies in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The goggles are of Russian origin.

Turkey and Iran-backed pro-Assad forces clashed in Northern Syria in a new twist in the competition between regional powers waging war there. Keeping the alliances and conflicts straight between the Syrian government, Iran, Russia, Turkey, the Gulf States, and the rebel militias has never been easy, but alliances are being strained as the interests of regional powers compete.

Two French soldiers were killed and a colonel injured by fighters in Mali. The French military has been operating there since 2013, when it intervened to stop Islamic fighters from overthrowing the government.

More than 90 schoolgirls in Nigeria are missing after a Boko Haram attack. “I saw girls crying and wailing in three Tata vehicles and they were crying for help,” said a witness. This is the largest abduction of schoolgirls in Nigeria by Boko Haram since 270 went missing in 2014, sparking the #bringbackourgirls social media movement amplified by First Lady Michelle Obama.

So we fixed the glitch. The latest Pentagon budget does not including salaries for Iraqi Kurdish militias. The fighters, collectively known as the Peshmerga and long-time U.S. allies, stopped receiving salaries from the U.S. government when the Kurdistan Regional Government held an independence referendum against American wishes in September. The latest budget hints the temporary halt in payments may be permanent.

Islamic State fighters from Iraq and Syria are relocating to the Philippines. The fighters are joining rebel groups already operating in the country’s south.

A U.S. air strike killed three al Shabaab fighters in Somalia said a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command, adding that no civilians were killed in the attack.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section, but answers have their own value that is completely independent from outside perception, just like you. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Thursday, February 22th, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 19th, 2018

M777 A2 Howitzer fire mission

Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a feature from Insurgentsia that runs weekday mornings (except when it doesn’t, like last Friday). The scope of these posts will cover small wars, full hearts, can’t lose.

The weather forecast this morning is unseasonably warm with a 60% chance of media-induced cognitive dissonance. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

“A front against Israel where there is no war but also no peace,” writes the New York Times in a piece about the Iranian presence in Syria. While Iran deployed its own military and facilitated the organization of foreign militias to fight for Assad in the Syrian Civil War, Western think tanks see the potential for a permanent presence to counter Israel in the region, similar to the model it used with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Such a model has sparked multiple Israeli invasions of Lebanon. Over the weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a speech brandishing a piece of an Iranian drone, threatening war.

A gunman attacked a church in Russia and Islamic State claimed responsibility. Countering violent extremism has become a discipline of study and an industry of its own, but this quote highlights why it is important to learn the basics: “Churchgoers said they had prevented more casualties by closing the door to the church and stopping the attacker from getting inside.”

Four U.S. soldiers died in Niger in October and the New York Times wrote a staggering account of their last moments with a visual aid detailing their last steps. It’s heartbreaking.

In Kabul, suicide attacks occur monthly. Street cleaners have to deal with the aftermath. “We found hands, feet — even a head. I couldn’t eat for the next two days. I was horrified,” says one.

Damascus suburb endures death and misery as it has for years and will continue to as long as outside powers decide to continue the war in Syria. Regional powers focus on more strategically important places while residents wonder what their children will eat and if there will be a tomorrow.

Three Iranian police were killed in Tehran in protests by Sufi Muslims against the government. A bus drove into a formation of Iranian riot police. The protests were in support of jailed Sufi leaders.

Turkey adds the Syrian government to its list of potential enemies having already threatened the United States in its campaign against the Kurdish YPG in northern Syria. Turkey threatening the Assad regime would have been good news to the U.S. and rebel forces in 2012, but today it just adds another violent dimension to a brutal conflict that shows no signs of ending.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section, but answers are having a great, but very reflective, President’s Day. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Tuesday, February 20th, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 15th, 2018

Exercise Sea Soldier '17: US-Oman MOUT Training

Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a new feature from Insurgentsia that runs weekday mornings. The scope of these posts will cover unconventional warfare around the globe (conventional warfare is just so basic).

The weather forecast this morning is warm with a 90% chance of hopes and prayers from lawmakers. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

You can come back to concentration camps the Myanmar government says to the Rohingya. The ethnic minority that fled Myanmar to Bangladesh after harsh government reprisals to insurgent attacks caused over 7,000 to flee wants to return home. Many of their villages were burned to the ground, so the Myanmar government has built what Human Rights Watch calls “open-air prisons” and the government calls “refugee camps.”

Over 10,000 Afghan civilians killed or injured in 2017 says the United Nations. Anti-government forces like the Taliban and Islamic State are deliberating targeting civilians in complex ambushes. However, casualties are also attributed to American airstrikes which have increased under the Trump Administration.

Tillerson acknowledges Hezbollah as “part of the political process in Lebanon” at a news conference in Beirut. Most of his speech was boilerplate denunciation of Hezbollah and Iran, but the statement is significant as it tacitly recognizes Hezbollah as a political organization, despite their presence on the State Department’s official list of foreign terrorist organizations. Realistically, it just means Tillerson can’t stay on message and is out of his depth.

Pakistan doesn’t want to be on the terrorism financier list so it has launched a crackdown against the jihadist group responsible for 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people. It only took 10 years and a major threat from the international community.

Russia admits five civilians killed in U.S. attack in Syria last week. Russian media reported rumors of dozens if not hundreds of Russian contractor deaths, but Russia denied the claims at first. Acknowledging civilians were killed is not admitting Russia is using private military contractors, but it’s closer than saying nothing.

53 Islamist militants killed in the Sinai says the Egyptian military. The offensive began last week in response to an attack on a mosque that killed over 350 people.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section, but answers are busy crypto mining. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Friday, February 16th, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 14th, 2018

Manning the gun

Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a new feature from Insurgentsia that runs weekday mornings. The scope of these posts will cover unconventional warfare around the globe (nobody does conventional warfare anymore — it’s too popular).

The weather forecast this morning is dry with a 70% chance of media-induced feelings of inadequacy. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

United States to add Pakistan to terror financing list according to a senior Pakistan official. The U.S. will likely introduce a motion next week when the Financial Action Task Force meets in Paris. This move comes after the U.S. suspended $1.3 billion in aid to Pakistan last month.

But the U.S. admitted to financing terrorism itself, in effect, when the Director of National Intelligence stated American allies, the YPG, were “the Syrian militia of the Kurdistan Workers Party.” The Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, is officially listed as a Foreign Terror Organization by the State Department. The Turkish government has long claimed the YPG were part of the PKK, but the YPG and the U.S. has denied these claims.

Whose problem are British Islamic State fighters is something that Britain and the U.S. do not agree about. The British government thinks the fighters are now Iraq or Syria or somebody else’s problem, while the U.S. thinks those fighters should stand trial in Britain, and if the not there, then at least go to Guantanamo.

Iran asks U.S. to leave Syria, defending its own military presence there as legitimate as it was invited by the Syrian government. Iran now joins Syrian rebels and Turkey in calling for a U.S. withdrawal. In response, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demanded Iran-backed militias out of Syria. He also asked the same in Iraq in October, but so far they have not complied.

The Taliban reaches out to Americans directly in a 16,000 word letter sent to the media. “Prolonging the war in Afghanistan and maintaining American troop presence is neither beneficial for America nor for anyone else,” they say. True enough, but the Taliban doesn’t understand that the American people, by and large, just don’t give a shit.

Former Bush Administration official to be new Syria envoy in the latest example of nothing matters and time is a flat circle. Mr. Hannah served as Dick Cheney’s deputy national security adviser for the Middle East and later as his national security adviser.

An Afghan Shiite militia helped defeat Islamic State in Syria and a new piece in War on the Rocks examines what their next move may be. The militia is supported by Iran and many of the Afghan militiamen’s families live in Iran, but the many of the seasoned combat veterans have been fighting for years and they may prove useful to Iran elsewhere.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section, but answers were given up for Lent. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Thursday, February 15th, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 13th, 2018

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Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a new feature from Insurgentsia that runs weekday mornings. The scope of these posts will cover the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The previous sentence was written in 2012. —Ed.

The weather forecast this morning is warmer than when it was colder with a 90% chance of Olympic-caused ethnocentrism. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

The Syrian Civil War is no longer a civil war, but a regional war writes Liz Sly for the Washington Post. She breaks it down as such: Russia, Israel, Turkey, and Iran have all lost aircraft in Syria in the last week. As for who controls what, she writes that the Syrian government controls the largest amount of territory in Syria, but the United States controls the second largest. That’s a frank way to put it.

Islamic State is not defeated said Rex Tillerson at a summit in Kuwait City. He also pledged $200 million in aid to “war-torn countries.” The Iraqi government alone said it needs $88 billion to rebuild. Tillerson is expected to announce $3 billion in aid to Iraq for reconstruction, partly in loans.

Russian government mum on contractor deaths during a conference call with reporters today. Yesterday, Russian media reported hundreds of dead contractors from American air strikes. Some contractors may work for Wagner, a private military or security company operating in Syria that the Russian government has not confirmed exists.

U.S. in the business of destroying Russian tanks and business is good. U.S. officials announced today a Reaper drone destroyed a T-72 tank on Saturday in defense of SDF forces and three inside were killed.

Iraqi Kurdish political parties weakened since the independence referendum in September. In response to the referendum, Iraqi government forces seized the oil fields in Kurdish-held Kirkuk. Now the two ruling parties of the Kurdistan Regional Government have an income problem and cannot pay salaries.

Iraq resumes rail transport of oil from Baghdad to Basra. The shipments were halted in 2003 during the U.S.-led invasion. 15 years later, a basic infrastructure service finally resumes.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section, but answers are in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Wednesday, February 14th, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 12th, 2018

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Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a new feature from Insurgentsia that runs weekday mornings. The scope of these posts will cover the globe’s military operations other than war (oddly enough, this is another name for war).

The weather forecast this morning is freezing with a 30% chance of strained Clausewitz references. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

Gaza is starving and the world wonders if that will affect them this piece from The New York Times seems to say. Gaza has long been blockaded by Israel, but the tiny strip of land with two million people living there found ways around the economic siege to survive. Namely, tunnels into Egypt provided Gaza with goods and a tax revenue on those imported goods. But Egypt has cracked down on the tunnels and Gazans must turn to Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority. Fatah is not keen to work with Gaza because it is ruled by a rival party, Hamas. With no where to turn, Hamas may turn to violence against Israel to draw international sympathy and aid.

Kobani, Syria is preserving a neighborhood destroyed by war by turning it into an open air museum. During the battle to win back Kobani from Islamic State, Kurdish fighters supported by  U.S. and allied air power targeted and destroyed areas where militants were operating. “A reinforced-concrete, three-story house on the street was pancaked. ‘Everyone in that house is dead now,’ said Mustafa, a 40-year-old mechanic,” says the article about part of the area preserved.

Anti-IS campaign in Iraq caused $45.7 billion in damage says a new study by the World Bank and Iraq. I wonder who will be generously willing to loan the Iraqi government money to rebuild (at a modest interest rate, of course)? The Wall Street Journal vaguely states, “international investors.”

Pakistan-based militants attacked an Indian Army base over the weekend, killing at least six. Indian authorities blamed Jaish-e-Muhammad, an insurgent group that has attacked government forces in Kashmir as well.

Israel bombed Syrian government positions over the weekend in retaliation for the shooting down off an Israeli fighter over Syrian airspace. The loss of the Israeli fighter was the first in three decades.

A Turkish helicopter was also shot down in Syria on Saturday, killing two Turkish soldiers. The Kurdish YPG claimed responsibility and posted a video of the attack.

Pakistani Taliban confirmed deputy leader killed by a suspected U.S. drone strike last week and appointed a new one.

“Tunisia is finished” says one migrant who fled to Europe is this breakdown of the crisis from The Guardian. A crackdown on the smuggling routes from Libya, including a deployment of soldiers from Italy, has shifted the business to neighboring Tunisia.

Terrorism is not as useful lens for understanding violence in the Sahel said Nathaniel Powell of King’s College London for War on Rocks last week. Support for authoritarian regimes in squashing violent dissent is not helpful in the long run, he argues.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section but we are unaware of answers at this time because we were traveling. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Tuesday, February 13th, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 9th, 2018

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Amber Clay photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a new feature from Insurgentsia that runs weekday mornings. The scope of these posts will cover the globe’s small wars with big hearts.

The weather forecast this morning is clear and dry with a 50% chance of Fulda Gap fantasizing. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

Bad news, the Syrian Civil War is getting worse, contrary to popular belief. With Islamic State territory mostly liberated, the Russian and Iranian-backed Syrian government is free to focus its attention on rebel held areas near Damascus and in Idlib province while Turkey attacks Kurdish-held areas in Northern Syria. Since December, over 300,000 civilians have fled new fighting. You can watch new video of the devastation here.

Good news, two infamous Islamic State fighters were captured by Kurds in Syria. The two British fighters were part of a group of four known as “The Beatles” because of their Liverpool-like accents. They were known for their presence in the videos beheading Western journalists. The other two members of the group were already killed or captured.

Egypt launches its largest offensive against Islamic State in years in the Sinai Peninsula. The offensive is a combined arms operation intended to cut off and destroy the militants who have been operating in the peninsula, notably killing more than 350 people in a complex mosque attack in December.

Reuters published a detailed report of a massacre of Rhohingya men in Myanmar in which two of its journalists were imprisoned during the investigation. This bloody event is only one day in the ethnic cleansing occurring in the northern Rahkine state.

Human Rights Watch accuses Kurds of mass executions in a statement by the director. The group claims that in a week during the summer offensive against Islamic State last year, Kurdish security forces may have killed hundreds of male detainees.

How do civil wars end? With civil wars raging in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, and other places the U.S. and foreign powers are involved in around the world, political scientists examine how civil wars end and what role these external forces play in their ending on Political Violence at a Glance.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section but we are unaware of answers at this time because we were traveling. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Monday, February 12th, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 8th, 2018

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Australian Defense Force photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a new feature from Insurgentsia that runs weekday mornings. The scope of these posts will cover the globe’s various conflicts (a narrow topic, I know).

The weather forecast this morning is sunny with a 30% chance of shutdown. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

Try and make us leave is what the publicity tour of Manbij, Syria by two U.S. generals seemed to say. In Tuesday’s Situation Update I wrote that Turkey’s President Erdogan told U.S. officials “Why don’t you just go?” In response, Maj. Gen. Jamie Jerrard told press while standing next to an armored truck with an oversized American flag flying from it, “We’re very proud of our positions here, and we want to make sure everybody knows it.”

Later, U.S. struck pro-Assad forces after coming under attack in Deir ez-Zor, a Kurdish stronghold near the Euphrates River in Western Syria. This marks the third known time U.S. forces attacked Syrian government or pro-Assad forces.

The U.S. policy in Syria is to keep it weak, divided, and poor says Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, Joshua Landis. Landis is known as one of the U.S.’s top Syria experts. Landis claims this foreign policy hurts U.S. enemies, Iran and Russia, and helps its allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Duterte’s drug war may be war crimes or why would the International Criminal Court open an investigation? The complaint against the Phillipean president includes “extrajudicial killings that dated back to the late 1980s.”

Over 300 child soldiers freed in South Sudan in a rare bit of good news from the five-year conflict there. Over a quarter of the child soldiers were girls and the effort was led by the United Nations. According to the New York Times, “The United Nations has helped win the release of almost 2,000 child soldiers in the past few years. More than 10 percent of them have been younger than 13.”

A Brussels neighborhood tries to overcome its terrorist legacy by both increasing policing and improving opportunities for its foreign, Muslim residents. The neighborhood, Molenbeek, is infamous for being where the terrorists who killed over a hundred people in Paris and dozens more in Belgium.

Increased air strikes in Afghanistan but no hope for an end to the stalemate, says International Crisis Group. “Both sides are unleashing more violence based on the same rationale that it would tilt this stalemate to favor their conditions at the table.”

Libyan commander wanted by ICC turned himself in two days ago to Russian-supported forces in Libya, but was immediately freed. It’s the thought that counts?

Turkey to host a summit with Russia and Iran highlighting a shift away from the U.S. and NATO.

Syrian strikes continue near Damascus killing 21 and injuring over 100.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section but answers will be given through FOIA request only. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Friday, February 9th, 2018.