Guest Author — William Bayless: William spent nine years on active duty in the Navy as an analyst, serving aboard the USS John F. Kennedy for two years as well as serving at duty stations in Maryland and the U.K. William has an MBA, an Associate Degree in Information Systems and a solid foundation of basic cybersecurity principles and concepts.

Syrian Conflict

The Syrian War started in 2011 as an uprising and protests against the government of Syria led by Bashar al-Assad. Originally, the rebel forces were known as the Free Syrian Army but later splintered into several different groups, one of which is ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). The conflict is complex, with several internal and external groups and nations fighting for control of Syria and Northern Iraq.

This conflict has grown in complexity with more groups and nations being pulled into it since the beginning in 2011, and all have participated in varying degrees. The major world players are Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Lebanon, Russia and the United States. Some of the major non-state groups involved are; The Free Syrian Army, ISIL, the Kurds, and various other rebel groups.

Developments: The Syrian government, along with Russian personnel, entered the town of Daraa and raised the flag to show that the town has been retaken by government forces. Hundreds of thousands of people from the town and area are still displaced, but an agreement has been made with the help of Russian forces to allow safe passage for the return of rebels and people along with amnesty. The retaking of the town of Daraa is significant because this was the birthplace of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 when a group of teenagers spray painted anti-Assad graffiti in the town and were held for over 25 days — they were returned, beaten and bruised from their captivity. This sparked the uprising which then spread from Daraa to a full-blown civil war in Syria during the Arab Spring. The retaking of Daraa deals what many say is a death-blow to the rebels as this was the last major stronghold of the rebel forces. Other rebel groups exist, but they are very scattered, not well-organized, and many do not work with the Islamic State, therefore giving little hope to a successful rebellion to the Syrian government.

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. This conflict is complex with both Russian and Ukrainian forces involved as well as pro-Russian rebel groups and separatists as well as Ukrainian militia groups involved. The Russian government is also thought to have played a major role in large-scale election meddling and cyber attacks on Ukrainian power grids and infrastructure during this conflict.

Developments: One Ukrainian soldier was reportedly killed in east Ukraine on July 17. Also, this conflict was on the agenda for topics to be discussed when President Trump and Vladimir Putin met recently. Details are still emerging.

What to watch: President Trump met with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland on Monday. The meeting itself was very controversial for reasons unrelated to the conflict in Ukraine. Many subjects were supposed to be covered, including Syria and the War in Donbass, Ukraine. As the more controversial news consumes the headlines, many topics have fallen by the wayside. As time goes on, more light may be shed on future developments regarding this conflict.


For the United States, major operations started after the September 11, 2001 attacks from the Al Qaeda terrorist organization. Following the September 11 attacks which were planned and coordinated by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the United States attacked on October 7, 2001, in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks and has since been involved with the long conflict in Afghanistan. The conflict is now the longest in U.S. history and with thousands of troops still deployed it will take more time to ensure that it will not degrade back to a pre-9/11 condition, which was a hotbed of terrorist and extremist ideologies.

Developments: Sgt. 1st Class Christopher A. Celiz was killed in action on July 12, in Paktiya province Afghanistan during combat operations. The mission was in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the supporting the U.S. mission to NATO’s Operation Resolute Support. Click here to read more about Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz.

The United States has also reportedly sent envoys to speak with the Taliban directly. This is a new development — in the past, the Afghan government has been entrusted with any potential negotiations with the Taliban. With talks of peace circulating more frequently, it seems the U.S. is willing to negotiate this peace directly. Still, there are frequent engagements, suicide bombings and other acts of war happening daily across the country.

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 Calderón sent over 6,000 Mexican troops to his native state of Michoacán. As a result, the drug wars have gotten significantly worse, and tens of thousands of murders have occurred since then, which was a dramatic increase from before 2006. Mexico’s drug wars have claimed up to tens of thousands of lives a year, with many reports of escalating brutality such as beheadings and torture.

Developments: Nothing significant to report this past week.

What to watch: Mexico has elected Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as new incoming President of Mexico and is expected to take over on December 1st, 2018. He is reportedly considering a big change in how Mexico deals with its drug cartels and the war on drugs, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives since major developments in 2006. He is considering some new strategies, such as more opportunities for the youth — scholarships to divert them away from the drug cartels, more security at the ports, having the military move away from doing law enforcement, and more emphasis on police taking over more law enforcement duties, to name a few. This is according to Olga Sanchez, who is Obrador’s proposed interior minister.

Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.