French forces out of Burkina Faso, into Ivory Coast
France has officially ended its operations in Burkina Faso on Feb. 20, a month after the ruling junta there terminated a military accord that allowed the former colonial power to fight jihadists. French forces remain in the greater region, however. The move came as French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu visited Côte d'Ivoire, pledging to boost military support as jihadist attacks hit coastal West African states. (TNH)
Somalia: US raids on ISIS stronghold
A US special forces raid in Somalia ordered by President Joe Biden killed a key regional ISIS leader, Bilal al-Sudani, the Pentagon said in a statement Jan. 26. Sudani apparently died in a gun-battle after US troops descended on a cave complex in a mountainous area of northern Somalia. No civilians were injured or killed in the operation, officials said. The statement did not specify the location of the raid, but the announcement followed reports in Somali media describing a US drone strike on a stronghold of the self-declared Islamic State-Somalia (ISS) in the Iskushuban area of the Cal Miskaad mountains, in the northern autonomous region of Puntland. (Defense Post, Military.com, LWJ)
Nigeria drops 'terrorism' charges against Biafra separatist
The Nigerian Court of Appeal on Oct. 13 dismissed all terrorism charges against Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of separatist group the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Nigerian authorities have identified IPOB as a "terrorist organization," but international organizations including the Council on Foreign Relations disagree with the designation, and are urging the US not to adopt it.
US troops 'back' to Somalia —but did they ever leave?
The Pentagon announced May 16 that a "small, persistent US military presence" of around 500 troops is to return to Somalia, to assist ongoing operations against the Shabaab insurgents. Media commentators widely portrayed this as a policy reversal, with some incorrectly stating that Present Trump "brought the troops home" from Somalia in 2020. However, the Pentagon press release implicitly acknowledges that the so-called "withdrawal" had been largely a fiction: "This decision was based on a request from [Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III] and included advice from senior commanders and, of course, concern for the safety of our troops who have incurred additional risk by deploying in and out of Somalia on an episodic basis for the past 16 months."
Podcast: Somalia in the Great Game
In Episode 122 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the ongoing conflict in Somalia in light of both climate change and Great Power politics. Despite a pseudo-withdrawal of US forces, the Pentagon continues drone strikes against the Shaabab insurgents—as the Horn of Africa faces it worst drought in a generation, with millions on the brink of extreme hunger and possible starvation. A paradox of the situation is that "government-controlled" Somalia (the southern third of the country) is not controlled by any government, but wracked by insurgency. In contrast, the unrecognized de facto independent state of Somaliland in the north is a bastion of comparative stability and even social progress. Reports of Russian designs on Somaliland as a potential site for a naval base threaten to draw it into the imperial contest for control of the strategic Horn. Progressives in the West can demand international recognition for an independent and non-aligned Somaliland. We can also loan solidarity to the Sufi resistance now fighting both the Shaabab and the "recognized" Mogadishu quasi-government. Most importantly, we can support the secular and pro-democratic voices of civil society that are standing up for human rights and basic freedoms at great risk to themselves, and in spite of everything. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Yemen: Biden warned against Houthi 'terrorist' tag
US President Joe Biden is said to be considering re-designating Yemen's Houthi rebels (officially called Ansar Allah) as a terrorist organization, a possibility he mentioned last month after the group claimed responsibility for a deadly missile attack inside the United Arab Emirates. The UAE and Saudi Arabia lead a military coalition that has been fighting the Houthis in Yemen for seven years. Saudi Arabia said its air defense system intercepted a Houthi drone near its southern border on Feb. 10. Aid groups—part of a successful lobbying campaign that saw Biden remove the label shortly after he took office last January—warn that a redesignation would have "catastrophic consequences for Yemeni civilians." Not only would it hit the economy hard, making it even more difficult to import food, fuel, and medicine, but it would also decrease the flow of much-needed aid at a time when "organizations like ours are already struggling to keep pace with immense and growing needs." Violence is also growing, and not just around the battlefields of the contested province and city of Marib. Between early October and early February, 1,535 civilians were reportedly killed or injured, more than double the figure for the previous four months.
UN experts condemn Gitmo on grim anniversary
A group of United Nations experts have condemned the US Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, calling it a site of "unparalleled notoriety." The statement came on the eve of Jan. 11, which marks the twentieth anniversary of the arrival of the first terrorism suspects at Guantánamo.
Colombia: inactive guerillas join active paras off US terror list
The US State Department announced Nov. 30 that Colombia's disbanded FARC guerilla army has been removed from the list of "Foreign Terrorist Organizations." The FARC was one of the first groups to be designated under the list, one year after it was established under a 1996 amendment to the Immigration & Nationality Act instated by that year's Antiterrorism & Effective Death Penalty Act. The official statement on the de-listing of the FARC acknowledged that it "no longer exists as a unified organization." In fact, the de-listing came on the fifth anniversary of the peace agreement under which the FARC agreed to demobilize.
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