Eritrean troops have re-entered the northern Ethiopian province of Tigray—a region they had largely vacated in June under military pressure from the rebel Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). The new Eritrean deployment, in support of the Ethiopian government, is reportedly to the contested western part of Tigray, around the towns of Adi Goshu and Humera—a target for the TPLF. The United States has demanded the withdrawal of all Eritrean forces from Ethiopia and on Aug. 23 imposed sanctions on Eritrea's top general, Filipos Woldeyohannes, for "despicable acts" of rights violations. While much of Tigray has been declared "fully" accessible for aid deliveries, fighting in Afar province—a key supply route—between the government and TPLF has blocked aid getting into Tigray itself. Since July 15, only some 320 trucks have entered the region, a fraction of the cargo required to meet the humanitarian needs of at least 5.2 million people, according to the UN relief agency, OCHA.
Details of an investigation into negotiations between the government of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele and violent gangs, which involved trading fewer murders and electoral support for improved prison conditions, were revealed by El Faro, an online news site. The talks were carried out by a special unit created by attorney general Raúl Melara, who was ousted in May. Officials apparently conducted discussions with Mara Salvatrucha, Barrio 18 Revolucionarios, and Barrio 18 Sureños, which the government considers terrorist groups. El Faro published audio files and text messages documenting what took place over at least a year beginning in June 2019. Gang violence has been one of the main drivers of migration from El Salvador to the United States. The US State Department recently accused several Bukele officials of corruption, which has cooled efforts to engage bilaterally on migration strategy.
With absurd hubris, Biden in his speech on Aug. 31—the day the last US troops left Kabul under the deadline agreed to with the Taliban—declared that "the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan." It's perverse enough that he called the US evacuation of some 120,000 Afghans and Americans an "extraordinary success"—despite the fact that more than 100 US nationals and many thousands of desperate Afghans were left behind. But this reality-denying "ended the war" rhetoric is being uncritically echoed by media accounts.
The Taliban killed an Afghan folk musician Aug. 29, days after stating that they would ban music from being played in public places. Fawad Andarabi was shot dead by Taliban fighters who arrived at his farm in the village of Kishnabad, Andarab district, in the southern part of Baghlan province. The district is near the Panjshir Valley that harbors a resistance force rejecting Taliban rule. Four days earlier, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told the New York Times: "Music is forbidden in Islam, but we're hoping that we can persuade people not to do such things, instead of pressuring them."
In Episode 86 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg returns to the book The Responsibility to Protect in Libya and Syria: Mass Atrocities, Human Protection, and International Law by Syrian American legal scholar Yasmine Nahlawi, exploring applicability of its analysis to the current disaster in Afghanistan. This discussion is taken up at the request of Eric Laursen, author of The Duty to Stand Aside: Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Wartime Quarrel of George Orwell and Alex Comfort. Laursen is the first to take up the CounterVortex special offer, by which new Patreon subscribers get to choose a topic for exploration on the podcast. When do we have a responsibility to protect, and when do we have a duty to stand aside, and how can these imperatives be reconciled? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Aug. 23 agreed to hear a complaint against the state of Chile brought by the Rapa Nui indigenous people of Easter Island, demanding recovery of their ancestral lands. The complaint accuses Chile of numerous violations of the American Convention on Human Rights, especially citing Article 4 on the right to life, Article 12 on freedom of conscience and religion, Article 21 on property rights, and Article 25 on judicial protection. More than 70% of traditional Rapa Nui lands are now classified as "state lands," from which the island's indigenous inhabitants are effectively excluded—causing "irremediable damage" to their way of life and autonomy. The complaint charges that this constitutes a violation of the 1888 Acuerdo de Voluntades (Consent Agreement), under which the Rapa Nui formally accepted Chilean sovereignty. (El Ciudadano, Chile; Pagina12, Argentina)
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) charges in a new report that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are violating US sanctions imposed under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act by supplying oil and gas to the Bashar Assad regime. The report claims the sales come to some six million barrels of oil annually, amounting to profits of $120 million. The report covers the period from enactment of the Caesar Act in June 2020 through July 2021, and asserts that the oil has enabled "perpetration of atrocious violations" by the regime. The report also warns of toxic pollution caused by primitive oil extraction methods used at the SDF-held oil-fields.
At least 12 US service members were killed in a combined bomb attack and armed assault at a gate to the Kabul airport, where throngs fleeing the Taliban were desperately crowding Aug. 26. Reports indicate up to 100 Afghan civilians were killed, including children, although Taliban authorities have barred local medics from speaking to the press. A second such attack was reported from the nearby Baron Hotel, which is being used by aid workers coordinating the evacuation. The "Afghanistan Islamic Emirate," as the Taliban are now calling themselves, condemned the blasts, which are presumed to be the work of the "Islamic State-Khorasan Province" (variously rendered ISIS-K or ISKP). (NYT, Al Jazeera, Khaama)