Uzbekistan and Islamic State: Phantom or Foe?

Flag of Uzbekistan. Image: Giorgio Minguzzi/Flickr

This article was originally published by on 13 November, 2015.

Numerous recent news accounts in Uzbekistan would seem to indicate mounting agitation over alleged activity by Islamic State — an extremist organization not previously known to have made inroads into the country.

Dozens of individuals have reportedly been arrested on suspicion of having links to the terrorist group, and some security forces are said to have been placed on high alert amid concerns about possible unrest. For all the clamor, little is understood about whether Islamic State has genuinely established a presence in Uzbekistan, and whether semi-official claims of anti-terrorist sweeps can be taken at face value.

In the latest case to draw public attention, Tashkent-based website cited an unnamed Supreme Court official on November 13 as saying a 23-year old man called Muhammad Abdullaev had been sentenced to 13 years in prison for his association with Islamic State. has served as a conduit for multiple alarming stories about alleged Islamic State incursions into Uzbekistan. » More

Russia’s Recent Airstrikes in Syria

Russian Airstrikes in Syria from 23 October – 1 November, 2015 (click to enlarge). Image: Genevieve Casagrande/Institute for the Study of War

This map was originally published by the Institute for the Study of War on 2 November, 2015.

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) discontinued the release of daily airstrike reports from October 28 – November 1 amidst multilateral talks on the Syrian Civil War held in Vienna on October 30 and continued reports of civilian casualties. Nevertheless, credible local sources continued to report airstrikes in Dera’a, Damascus, Homs, Hama, Idlib, and Aleppo from October 31 – November 1. Russian airstrikes predominantly targeted rebel-held areas in Aleppo Province in conjunction with regime ground offensives against ISIS in the southeastern countryside of Aleppo and rebel forces southwest of Aleppo City. Local activist reporting claimed that Russian airstrikes and regime forces killed 64, including 28 children in Aleppo on October 31 alone. » More

Could an Independent Iraqi Kurdistan Defend Itself?

Kurdish Peshmerga and PKK fighters. Image: Kurdishstruggle/Flickr

This article was originally published by on October 22, 2015. Republished with permission.

Most Iraqi Kurds want independence and do not trust the Iraqi army to protect them. But the question is — how would an independent Iraqi-Kurdistan defend itself?

It won’t be easy. The Kurdish region is sandwiched between the Iraqi state, Turkey and Iran. All three states oppose Kurdish independence. The Kurdish military is a factionalized slew of paramilitary groups with mostly light weapons.

For the Kurds, Baghdad may very well be the capital of a foreign country. This is why the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is annoyed that arms shipments to the Peshmerga go through Baghdad. No surprise, the Iraqi government keeps the heaviest weapons for itself. » More

‘Ungoverned Space’: the Concept that Puts Humanitarian Aid in the Firing Line of the War on Terror

Syrian Hospital. Source: Syrian Hospital, courtesy of Freedom House

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 16 October, 2015.

The hospital bombed by US troops in Kunduz, Afghanistan, treated trauma patients, no matter whether they were civilians or Taliban fighters. The bombing happened as Afghan and US forces fought to drive Taliban out of the city the latter had captured just days before.

If the targeting of the hospital, which killed at least 22 people, had been an accident, it would leave no doubt about the return of war to the urban centres of Afghanistan. But knowledge of the hospital’s GPS coordinates by the US and Afghan armies and the precision of the attack suggest otherwise.

Both Afghan and US officials at one point in the aftermath suggested that they were targeting Taliban fighters on the hospital’s grounds, something that Médecins Sans Frontières‎, which runs the hospital, denies was the case. If the attack was in fact intentional, how can we make sense of such a breach of the Geneva conventions that forbid attacking humanitarian structures? » More

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Is a Terrorist Attack Imminent in South Africa?

People waving the South African flag. Image: Dan H/Flickr

This article was originally published by ISS Africa on 18 September, 2015.

On Tuesday 8 September, the United States (US) Diplomatic Mission to South Africa issued a rare security message entitled Terrorist Threat to US Interest in South Africa. The alert warns citizens about a potential attack on US interests and facilities, and advises US citizens in the country to be vigilant and take appropriate steps to enhance personal security.

The alert came as a surprise to many South Africans and was met with mixed reactions. Some questioned the credibility of the information and the feasibility of a potential attack on the continent’s most advanced liberal democracy, which has been relatively stable since 1994. Conspiracy theories have also emerged, describing the alert as part of a strategy to destabilise South Africa and weaken its economy by creating panic. » More

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