Beyond the Wire - 19 January 2018
January 19, 2018Your daily briefing on the state of the world, and the state of the art for all things Transnational Threats. If you are having trouble viewing the interactive map, please click here. We welcome your feedback! Drop us a line at email@example.com.
Middle East and North AfricaTurkey Shells Syria's Afrin Region, Minister Says Operation Has Begun
The cross-border bombardment took place after days of threats from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to crush the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin in response to growing Kurdish strength across a wide stretch of north Syria. (Reuters)
Ankara Might be Awaiting Russian OK for Afrin Operation
Ankara has been concerned that it was sidelined from the game east and west of the Euphrates River and even disregarded in the developments in northern Syria. The Turkish army is ready to move along the border, but as of the morning of Jan. 18, when there are only two days left from the Jan. 20 deadline declared by Erdogan, there was still no operation in sight. (Al-Monitor)
Ignatius: We’re Finally Letting the Middle East Fight Its Own Battles
Letting others fight the battle hasn’t been the American way in modern times, to our immense national frustration. The U.S. military became bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, much as it had a generation earlier in Vietnam, by trying to reshape societies with U.S. firepower. For the military, the lesson from these quagmires is to step back — and help local forces with training, advice and air power. (Washington Post)
Interview with Militia Leader, Qais al-Khazali: 'We Don't Deny Militias Have Committed Violations'
Qais al-Khazali, leader of the League of the Righteous militia, addresses reports that his fighters left Iraq to participate in the Syrian government, and discusses the future of the country's Shiite militias post ISIS. (Niqash)
Sub-Saharan AfricaGabon Says It Busted a Major Ivory Smuggling Network
Officials said their analysis of the suspects’ laptops and cellphones had revealed links to Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group that has been waging war in northern Nigeria and neighboring areas for nearly nine years. (New York Times)
Somali Authorities Say Troops Rescue 32 Children From 'Terrorist School'
In a report this week, the New York-based rights group said that since September 2017, al Shabaab had ordered village elders, teachers in Islamic religious schools, and rural communities to hand over hundreds of children as young as eight. (Reuters)
U.N. Warns of 'Lost Generation' in South Sudan's Grinding Conflict
South Sudan, which split off from its northern neighbor Sudan in 2011, has been gripped by a four-year civil war sparked by political rivalry between incumbent leader Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar. (Reuters)
East Asia and the PacificRohingya Refugee Leaders Draw Up Demands Ahead of Repatriation
The petition, which has still to be finalised, demanded the Myanmar government publicly announce it is giving Rohingya long-denied citizenship and inclusion on a list of the country’s recognized ethnic groups. It asks that land once occupied by the refugees be returned to them and their homes, mosques and schools rebuilt. (Reuters)
New Uighur Jihadist Group Emerges in Syria
The outfit, Katibat al Ghuraba, or Katibat al Ghuraba al Turkistan (KGT), claims to be mainly comprised of ethnic Uighurs, but other ethnicities are represented in its ranks as well. It is unclear what its relationship is with the largest ethnic Uighur organization in Syria, the Turkistan Islamic Party, which is affiliated with al Qaeda. However, it has become more prevalent on social media in recent weeks, as it takes part in battles against the Assad regime alongside other jihadist groups. (Long War Journal)
Europe and EurasiaEvery 2017 Terrorist Attack, Mapped
The number of people dying in terrorist attacks is dropping, according to a report released this week. The study, done annually by Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center, uses open-source information to track every instance of politically and ideologically motivated violence by nonstate armed groups and individuals. Its latest report shows that the number of terrorist attacks dropped slightly in 2017, to 22,487. (Washington Post)
German Authorities Charge Afghan Suspected In Taliban Killing
Prosecutors say the suspect joined the Taliban in early 2013, underwent training, recruited new members, and helped transport weapons for the Islamist militant group on at least one occasion. (RFERL)
Turkey's Bluster on Afrin: More than Meets the Eye
Turkey’s escalating rhetoric has prompted pushback from the Syrian regime. Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad, warned that “[t]he Syrian air defenses have restored their full force and they are ready to destroy Turkish aviation targets in Syrian Arab Republic skies.” The regime’s propaganda outlet, Al Masdar News, also wrote that YPG forces have traversed regime territory to reinforce positions in Afrin in preparation for the expected intervention. The regime, however, has demonstrated an inability to defend its borders and often makes threats it cannot carry out. (War on the Rocks)
South and Central AsiaCould Taliban Finally Return to Afghan Peace Talks? Obstacles Abound
Low-level contacts between the Afghan government, international groups including the UN and groups close to the Taliban have continued even as the insurgency has escalated over the past three years. But progress has always been blocked by the deep mistrust between the government and the Taliban, as well as uncertainty about the position of neighbors including Pakistan, which Afghanistan has long accused of aiding the insurgents. (Reuters)
Two Polio Workers, Mother and Daughter, Killed In Pakistan
No one has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, but militants in Pakistan have regularly targeted polio workers and their guards. (RFERL)
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