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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Episode 91 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the 20th anniversary of the launch of World War 3 Report, as it was then called—a direct response to 9-11 and Dubya Bush's declaration of the Global War on Terrorism. In 2005, it was renamed World War 4 Report, on the logic that the Cold War had been World War III, and to emphasize support for the "Fourth World"—land-rooted, stateless, and indigenous peoples. In 2016, the project was transformed into CounterVortex, in light of its expanding mission beyond the original mandate of the GWOT, and to emphasize the need for general resistance to humanity's downward spiral into ecological collapse and permanent war.
In Episode 88 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg revisits his predictions from 20 years ago and from a month ago about what the world would look like on the 20th anniversary of 9-11. The attack, and Dubya Bush's Global War on Terrorism, did not lead to a wave of new attacks within the US, as the jihad has proved more concerned with the struggle within Islam. But this has meant an invisible catastrophe for the Muslim world. The ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen get at least some international media attention. There are many more nearly forgotten wars and genocides: the serial massacres in Pakistan, the insurgency in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, the Boko Haram war in Nigeria that is now spilling into Cameroon, the mounting massacres in the Sahel nations. Even the insurgency in Somalia, where the US has had a military footprint, wins little coverage—despite the fact that it is spilling into Kenya. The insurgency in Mozambique has now prompted an African-led multinational military intervention. The insurgency on the Philippine island of Mindanao has been met with air-strikes. All waged by entities claiming loyalty to either al-Qaeda or ISIS. The new imperial doctrine appears to be that this violence is acceptable as long as it is not visited upon the West—as now admitted to by the elite global management.
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.