Syrian Conflict

The Syrian War started in 2011 as an uprising and protests against the government of Syria led by Bashar Al Assad.

Developments:  The October 15 deadline has passed for the Russian-Turkish deal which allowed for a buffer zone between the city of Idlib and Syrian/Russian forces. The rebels were told to leave the buffer zone as part of the deadline, however, they have vowed to stay and fight along with a report that there were two shells that came from the buffer zone and killed two Syrian soldiers, but it is unclear who fired the mortar shells.

The border crossing between Syria and Israel has opened in the Golan Heights, which is operated by the UN (with help from Russian military officers).

The border crossing with Jordan has opened as well, allowing for economic trade between the two countries once more. This crossing was opened with the leaders of the Chamber of Commerce in Syria, as well as commercial delegations from both sides. There have already been shipments between the two countries, which will also allow goods to flow from Syria to other countries in the region.

What to watch: With the passing of the October 15 there seems to be little recourse except to go into the area with force, so watch for what Russia in particular will do to handle this. Russia has honored the unstable ceasefire even after the deadline but it is unclear how long that will last.

Analysis: With little left for the rebels to negotiate there seems to be fewer options besides going in militarily to defeat the rebels. The rebels do not appear to be very coordinated. You have Hay’et al-Sham, Hurras al-Deen, and Ansar al-Islam, along with the Turkish backed National liberation Front operating in this area.

There was shelling coming from the buffer zone, but it is unclear who fired the shells which killed two soldiers on the Syrian side. It looks more as each day passes that Russia and Syria will have to enter with force, much to the disappointment of the UN and Western countries, who are warning that this will be a large scale humanitarian crisis with the very populated area of Idlib.

 

War in Donbass, Ukraine, Ukrainian/Russian conflict

This conflict started in March of 2014 when pro-Russian rebels in the Donbass (Eastern Ukraine) took control of government buildings after the successful annexation of the Crimea near the Black Sea by Russia.

Developments: Reports of rebel infighting continue, made much worse since the bombing of Alexander Zakharchenko in August. The bombing of Zakharchenko remains unsolved, and this has caused a lot of frustration both inside and outside the contested region. There is a lot turmoil among the rebels — who have blamed each other — and those put in power remain suspicious of those around them.

“Clear Skies” Exercise — The United States and the Ukraine are holding joint exercises between the Ukrainian and US Air Forces. This exercise involves fighters from both militaries preparing for a possible Russian threat. Having the Ukrainians train with the American planes gives them good training on how to work with their American counterparts but is also a good show of force and solidarity to Russia that America is committed to helping the Ukrainians remain free of Russian influence and aggression.

Petro Poreshenko looks at the sky as US and Ukrainian aircraft perform

Analysis: There is debate about who killed Zakharchenko still. While his killers have not yet been caught, there has, of course, been a lot of finger pointing, some people detained and tortured, the owner of the club where he was killed has fled. Most likely it was rebel infighting. However, there is speculation that Russia is growing tired of the never-ending war in Donbass and Donetsk themselves, and wanted to put an end to their support for the rebel controlled areas. As Zakarchenko grew out of favor, they killed him… while accusing the Ukraine.

The “Clear Skies” exercise is interesting for several reasons. Helping the Ukrainian Air Force is not only good training for their pilots, but also gives our pilots time against the SU-27 fighter that Russia also uses. So the training is invaluable in seeing how their planes will perform against US fighters.

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It is sure to aggravate Russia that the two countries are performing air training so close to the Russian border, but that is also a good show of strength and push-back to a country that has been very aggressive itself in how it deals with its neighbors.

 

Afghanistan

For the United States, major operations started after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Developments: Talks have taken place between the United States and the Taliban. There have been several meetings in recent months about the possible withdrawal of troops and a possible end (for the United States) to the now 17 year war in Afghanistan.

Violence continues across the country as many killings are still occurring, and many of the targets are Afghan military, police, and election officials, as the Taliban have promised to kill leading up to the election. On October 13, a motorcycle carrying explosives parked near a rally for female candidate was detonated before she was expected to speak, killing at least 22 people. The Taliban are thought to be behind the attack.

What to watch: Elections – The Afghan elections are to be held on October 20. There have been many threats and actual violence leading up to the election. Watch for the results of these elections and expect more violence and killings.

Talks with the Taliban – Also watch for the results of any talks, if confirmed by the United States, to see if anything positive comes, or if we can find any middle ground. One big possible common ground is battling ISIS in Afghanistan, or curbing possible influence of the Chinese and Russians.

See Also: Brazilian Election on October 28, 2018

Analysis: As the United States has entered its 18th year of the Afghanistan conflict, we still have over 14,000 troops deployed… and are still conducting airstrikes. With the recent talks being confirmed by the Taliban, they may be feeling weary themselves as they battle a growing threat of ISIS in Afghanistan. Along with more attention from other countries — such as India and China — Russia has been wanting to host talks to end the violence there, and is very willing to get involved. It does seem on the surface that the Taliban is either weary of all the conflict or desperate to do something to get the Americans to leave so they can be left to sort things out with the new Afghan government. They want foreign troops to leave, prisoners freed, and the lifting of sanctions against some of their leaders as part of the peace talks. So, there is a lot to discuss for any peace to happen.

 

Mexican Drug Wars

The Mexican drug wars have been bloody for decades, but the modern drug war as referred to in the media was generally thought to have started in 2006 when Mexican President Felipe Calderon sent over 6,000 Mexican troops to his native state of Michoacan.

Developments: The incoming president, Lopez Obrador, wants to recruit mainly young people into 50,000 new positions for both the military and police to help combat crime and tackle unemployment. The new initiative will begin December 1st, when he officially takes office. Along with this new hiring initiative, he wants to move the military away from crime fighting and leave that work to police at both local and municipal levels.

In one case this past week, a judge sentenced five ex police officers to 52 years in prison for their part in helping the Jalisco New Generation Cartel with the disappearance of two Mexican federal agents. The ex police officers allegedly kidnapped the federal agents and then handed them to the cartel members and were never seen again. Three other ex police officers were sentenced from between 15 and 33 years for their part.

A new tunnel was discovered connecting Mexico and California while authorities were investigating a home in Jacume, just a few hundred feet from the border. The tunnel was over 600 feet in length and had yet to break surface on the California side. However, it was set up with a rail system, solar lighting and a ventilation system.

Analysis:  With the additional personnel Obrador wants to hire to combat the crime and violence, it will hopefully alleviate the pressure on local and state authorities to combat the cartels. The new initiative will be competing for younger workers who can be tempted by the cartels for decent wages. The cartels and military tend to compete for the same pool and demographics. They tend to be mostly young men and women who may not have other options for education or jobs, so by having this program Obrador may be hurting the recruitment efforts of the cartels. As an example, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel is comprised of mainly ex military and is considered by some to be the most powerful cartel in Mexico. Pulling young people toward these government organizations will help lure young people away from joining the cartels.

 

Previous Global Conflict Updates:

October 2, 2018

September 23, 2018

September 3, 2018

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