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Whither Afghanistan? Getting Out Is Harder Than Getting In

By Philip Giraldi | Strategic Culture Foundation | July 22, 2021

The inability of the United States to comprehend what it was becoming involved in when, in the wake of 9/11, it declared a Global War on Terror, has to be reckoned one of the singular failures of national security policy over the past twenty years. Not only did the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq make bad situations worse, but the fact that no one is Washington was able to define “victory” and think in terms of an exit strategy has meant that the wars and instability are still with us. In their wake has been hundreds of thousands of deaths and trillions of dollars spent to accomplish absolutely nothing.

As a result, Iraq is unstable and leans more heavily towards America’s adversary Iran than it does to Washington. The Iraqi Parliament has, in fact, asked U.S. forces to leave the country, a request that has been ignored both by Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Trump actually threatened to freeze Iraqi bank assets to pressure the Iraqis into accepting the continued U.S. occupation. At the same time, American troops illegally present in neighboring Syria, continue to occupy that country’s oil fields to deprive the government in Damascus of much needed resources. Neither Iraq nor Syria threatens the United States in any way.

Given that history, it should be no surprise that the withdrawal from the twenty year-long nation building project in Afghanistan, long overdue, is not quite going as smoothly as the Pentagon and White House apparently planned. U.S. forces pulled out of their principal base in the country, Bagram Air Base, in the middle of the night without informing the incoming Afghan base commander. A frenzy of looting of the left behind equipment followed.

The Taliban are racking up victory after victory against U.S. and NATO trained Afghan government forces who have the disadvantage of having to defend everywhere, making them vulnerable to attacks on an opportunity basis. The Taliban now plausibly claim to control 85% of the countryside, to include crossing points into Pakistan and several important towns and provinces. They recently shocked observers by executing 22 Afghan Army commandos who had run out of ammunition and surrendered. The U.S. government is quietly expecting a similar fate for the thousands of Afghans who collaborated with the regime installed by Washington and is hurriedly arranging for visas to get the most vulnerable out, eventually seeking to resettle them in friendly Middle Eastern countries as well as in the U.S..

By one estimate as many as 18,000 Afghans worked for U.S. forces and they also have families that will have to go with them. There is particular concern that former interpreters, who would have been privy to decision making by Washington, will be most particularly targeted. The Biden White House has responded finally to the urgency of the issue – lives are at stake – by approving special flights to remove the most vulnerable to a third country for processing before determining if they can be allowed to take up residence in the United States or elsewhere.

To be sure, the struggle to rid the world of the wrong kind of terrorists has left the United States weaker and more unfocused than it was in 2001. China, Russia and Iran are already maneuvering to fill the impending power vacuum in Central Asia by coming to terms with the likely Taliban takeover, which might come sooner than Joe Biden expects. If some kind of Afghan coalition government does emerge, it will belong to Russia and China, not the U.S..

Meanwhile, the U.S. military itself, under the Biden Administration, is weaker and more riven by controversy than ever before. A recent 23-page report suggests that since Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s February order to “stand down” the entire U.S. military for commanders to address “extremism” in its ranks morale has sunk and many top soldiers have either retired or quit in disgust. During his confirmation hearings, Austin pledged that he would “rid our ranks of racists and extremists” but the reality is quite different, with the witch hunt in the ranks and endless promotion of diversity even hurting normal military readiness training.

By next month the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan will be reduced to a battalion of infantry to guard the Embassy and CIA station in Kabul, which is itself not sustainable unless some kind of workable Afghan government coalition can be achieved. Given the recent Taliban successes, that outcome appears to be increasingly unlikely. Maintaining the Embassy will also require a viable lifeline to the city’s airport and talks are underway with Turkey to determine if Ankara will be willing to base a stay behind battalion to maintain the air link. The Taliban have already announced that a Turkish presence at the airport will be unacceptable and warned Turkey that there would be revenge attacks against any remaining NATO troops after the U.S. pulls out. Their spokesman issued a statement declaring that “The continuation of Turkey’s occupation will provoke feelings of hatred and enmity in our country towards Turkish officials, and will harm bilateral relations.”

The U.S. is also seeking an over the horizon offensive capability once the military has formally left Afghanistan. The intention would be to be able to strike targets in Afghanistan if a new government forms any alliances with terrorist groups that potentially threaten the United States, as unlikely as that might be. At the present time, there are few options as the U.S. would not be able to launch cruise missile or airstrikes through the neighboring countries that surround Afghanistan to the south, east and west, though a long-distance strike from warships in the Persian Gulf is technically possible.

To the north there are, however, former Soviet central Asian states, the so-called “‘Stans,” that might be suitable for hosting some arrangement to base American equipment, aircraft and a caretaker force. Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, or Uzbekistan might be amenable to such a development, but both Tajikistan and Kazakhstan are members of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that any U.S. presence in a CSTO country would need the approval of the alliance, which the Kremlin will veto. One might suggest that there is mistrust about the reliability of Joe Biden and company as a strategic partner, even though there is widespread concern that Afghanistan might become a rogue state. Nevertheless, Washington’s bullying in Iraq, Syria and also against Iran has failed to convince anyone that the U.S. Air Force would make a good neighbor.

So getting out of Afghanistan will be a lot trickier than going in. The U.S. clearly wants to have some ability to intervene using air resources if the Taliban take over and misbehave, but that just might be a fantasy as the door is closing on options while China is waiting for its own door to open to bring the Afghans into their New Silk Road. And there is no escaping the fact that the entire Afghan adventure was one hell of a waste of lives and resources. Next time, maybe Washington will hesitate to charge in, but given the lack of any deep thinking going on in the White House, I suspect we Americans could easily find ourselves in yet another Afghanistan.

July 22, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , | 4 Comments

Turkish claims that the PKK is operating in Artsakh set dangerous precedent

By Paul Antonopoulos | September 28, 2020

Conflict sparked up again yesterday in Artsakh, or more commonly known as Nagorno-Karabakh, when Azerbaijan launched an offensive against Armenian forces. Although the Republic of Artsakh is not recognized by any state, including Armenia, and it is still internationally recognized as occupied Azerbaijani territory, it achieved a de facto independence in 1994.

As acting Commissar of Nationalities for the Soviet Union in the early 1920’s, future Soviet leader Joseph Stalin granted the Armenian-majority region of Artsakh to the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic. The Azeris, the dominant ethnic group of Azerbaijan, are cultural and linguistic kin with the Turks. It is said that the Turks and Azeris constitute “one nation in two states.” The defining difference is that Azeris are Shia Muslims unlike Turks who are mostly Sunni. The Soviets had hoped that by granting Artsakh to Azerbaijan instead of Armenia, they could court the newly founded Republic of Turkey to closely align with Moscow, or perhaps even become a Soviet Republic, by appeasing their ethnic Azeri kin.

In 1921, it was estimated that Artsakh was 94% Armenian. However, according to the 1989 census, Artsakh’s population was approximately 75% Armenian and 25% Azeri. Former Soviet Azerbaijani leader Heydar Aliyev, father of current President Ilham Aliyev, said in 2002: “I tried to change demographics there […] I tried to increase the number of Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh and the number of Armenians decreased.” The collapse of the Soviet Union unsurprisingly led to the Artsakh War, which only ended after a ceasefire in 1994 when Armenian forces achieved a decisive victory.

Despite Azerbaijan’s defense budget ($2.267 billion) being about five times larger than Armenia’s, they have failed to capture Artsakh on numerous attempts, particularly during the 2016 April War and another major attempt in July of this year. Azerbaijan’s resumption of hostilities yesterday could be passed off as just another skirmish that will subside in a few days. However, the current conditions are far different and much more dangerous than in previous situations.

Although it is well established that the Turkish economy is struggling, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is maintaining a policy of constant crises in the vain attempt to distract the public from the Turkish lira as it continues breaking new record lows to the US dollar and Euro, even as recently as this morning. As the military provocations and rhetoric of war against Greece and Cyprus in the East Mediterranean begins to subside in Ankara, it only took a few days for a new crisis to emerge.

Reports began emerging last week that Turkey was transferring terrorists from northern Syria to Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani leadership in Baku flatly denied the allegations last week and today. However, despite the denials from Baku, it must be remembered that Ankara openly announced its transfer of Syrian fighters to Libya earlier this year and the Azerbaijani’s have undoubtedly used international terrorists from Afghanistan, Chechnya and Turkey during the first Artsakh war in the 1990’s. Photos, videos and voice recordings have emerged that show Syrian terrorists on their way to or already in Azerbaijan. Vardan Toghanya, the Armenian Ambassador to Moscow, said in a statement today that 4,000 militants from Syria already arrived in Azerbaijan, while according to the Armenian intelligence agency, 80 fighters from Syria have already been killed or wounded.

Turkey’s transfer of militants in support of Azerbaijan, which was also done in the 1990’s, is not what makes the current conflict more dangerous compared to previous battles and skirmishes. Starting from last week, Turkey and Azerbaijan have increased their campaign in claiming that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), considered a terrorist organization by both Ankara and Baku, was operating in Artsakh. Neither Ankara and Baku provided any evidence for their claims. This sets a dangerous narrative as it could be used as a way for Turkey to “legitimize” a direct intervention against Armenia and in support of Azerbaijan.

Erdoğan justified his invasion and occupation of large areas of northern Syria and northern Iraq in 2018, 2019 and this year on the pretence that they were fighting against the PKK. Although Armenia denies PKK are operating in Artsakh, this will be ignored by Ankara and Baku.

However, unlike Syria and Iraq, Armenia is a member state of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), alongside Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. A direct Turkish attack on Armenia could activate the CSTO. This would be a dangerous scenario as in turn this could activate NATO in defense of Turkey. It is highly unlikely that the situation in Artsakh will dissolve into a CSTO-NATO faceoff. But the risk still remains, especially if Erdoğan decides to directly intervene under the guise of expelling the PKK from Artsakh.

Just as Erdoğan unleashed a migrant crisis in February and March of this year against Greece, sent Syrian terrorists to Libya in May, conducted a military operation in northern Iraq against the PKK in June, and created a new crisis with Greece by sending warships into its territorial waters in August and for most of September, it appears the new crisis to dominate headlines for the next few weeks will revolve around Artsakh.

Although it is unlikely that Turkey will directly militarily intervene, a dangerous precedent has already been established by pushing the narrative, without publicly available evidence, that the PKK are operating in Artsakh alongside Armenian forces. With the Turkish economy and lira collapsing, Erdoğan in the future may very well use the narrative that the PKK are in Artsakh to foment public furore and distract them from the declining economic situation.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

September 28, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top General Warns That NATO Wants to Turn Post-Soviet Space ‘Into Another Syria’

Sputnik – 08.09.2016

A top Russian general has voiced his frustration over NATO’s lack of cooperation with a Russian-led alliance involving countries from the former Soviet space, saying that the Western alliance doesn’t seem to want countries in the former USSR to ally with one another, allowing NATO pick them off one by one at their leisure.

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on Wednesday, Col. Gen. Nikolai Bordyuzha, secretary general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a military alliance involving six post-Soviet states, including Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, had some harsh words for Russia’s NATO partners.

The North Atlantic Alliance, he said, has been consistently opposed to any military integration between Russia and its partners in the CSTO, and the reason is that NATO wants to deprive these countries of their collective security guarantees.

“Why do you think NATO does not cooperate with the CSTO?” the general asked. “It’s simple – they have no need to support processes of [defense] integration. This way, things will be like in Syria, and nobody will be able to let out a peep. The country is being pounded, and there’s no one to help them, since it didn’t have any allies. And this is the situation they want to create for us as well,” Bordyuzha said, referring to the members of the CSTO.

Furthermore, the officer warned that the Western media has been engaged in what he called campaign of information warfare against the CSTO. “They will tell lies all day, every day. Everything that is being said about the CSTO is presented in a way that’s the opposite to how things are in reality,” Bordyuzha noted. “This is done, for example, in order to ensure that Tajikistan was not together with Russia,” he added.

Ultimately, Bordyuzha suggested that the Western political, media and military effort’s “most important task is to splinter our unity, to separate our nations into our own ‘national apartments’, and to dictate their terms to everyone individually.”

In this scenario, the officer emphasized that while the CSTO has absolutely no plans to fight a war of aggression against NATO, neither does it fear an attack by the Western alliance. “That’s why the CSTO exists,” Bordyuzha quipped.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization, formed in 1992, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, integrates the defense capabilities of six former Soviet republics, including Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Afghanistan and Serbia became observers to the organization in 2013. Former members include Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan.

Signatories to the alliance are not able to join other military alliances, and aggression against one member is considered aggression against all.

The CSTO holds yearly command exercises and drills to improve coordination between its states militaries, the most recent being Cooperation-2016, which took place last month in Russia’s Pskov region.

September 8, 2016 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hybrid Wars 4. In the Greater Heartland (III)

By Andrew KORYBKO | Oriental Review | April 8, 2016

(Please read Part I and Part II prior to this article)

Turkmenistan:

The threat facing Turkmenistan is less of a Color Revolution than an Unconventional War. The catalyst for this conflict would be a terrorist invasion coming from Afghanistan that unexpectedly sweeps northwards along the Murgab River. Such an offensive doesn’t even have to reach the national capital in order to be successful, since all that it really needs to do is capture the city of Mary, the capital of the resource-rich Mary Region. This part of the country contains the lion’s share of Turkmenistan’s gas reserve, which includes the massive and decades-long functioning Dauletabad Field and the newly discovered Galkynysh Field, the latter being the world’s second-largest find.

It wouldn’t be all that difficult for terrorists to take over this plot of land either, since the Murgab River is scattered with tiny villages along its banks that could provide cover from government airstrikes and places to provoke pitched battles from. The fertile land nearby is endowed with agricultural potential that’s surely being stored somewhere closely accessible, and this could help feed the occupying forces until greater conquests are made. In short, the Murgab River is the most militarily and logistically sustainable route for an ISIL-like invasion of Turkmenistan, and it leads straight to the gas heart of Eurasia that’s critically connected to China and will possibly be linked to India in the coming decade as well.

The risk of terrorists gaining control of the largest source of China’s gas imports and possibly even destroying the facilities is too much for multipolar strategists in Beijing and Moscow to bear, and it’s assured that they’ve already engaged in some sort of unofficial contingency planning with their counterparts in Ashgabat. An anti-terrorist Chinese intervention is largely precluded due to geographic distances and a lack of support and logistics facilities en route, but the Russian military has no such hindrances and would be much more likely to assist the Turkmen authorities if called upon to do so. This is of course a last resort and would only be commissioned if Turkmenistan proves itself unable to stem the terrorist tide and defend its gas infrastructure, but such an event is most assuredly being planned for just in case the Turkmen-Afghan border proves to be just as fragile of a defense against terrorists as the Syrian-Iraqi one was before it.

Туркмения-нефть-и-газ

Kazakhstan:

Kazakhstan and the other three remaining states of former Soviet Central Asia are greatly at risk of a “Central Asian Spring” breaking out in the Fergana Valley, and Part IV of the Greater Heartland series will focus exclusively on this ever likely scenario. Accordingly, the rest of this section will explore the other Hybrid War vulnerabilities facing these four countries.

The geographically largest state in the Greater Heartland region is surprisingly immune from many of the conventional socio-political factors that lead to Hybrid Wars (excluding the variables that will later be discussed about the “Central Asian Spring”). If one was blind to the domestic and international contexts pertinent to Kazakhstan, then they’d be inclined to believe that the Russian population constitutes the greatest threat to the country’s sovereignty, although this couldn’t be anywhere further from the truth. Theoretically speaking, this demographic satisfies all of the criteria necessary for sparking a Hybrid War, but Kazakhstan’s multipolar alignment with the Eurasian Union and respectful treatment of this influential minority group precludes any chances that they or Russia would ever try to move forward with this scenario. On the reverse, the very inclusion of such a large Russian minority within Kazakhstan ties Astana and Moscow closer together than just about any other state in the former Soviet Union and works to enhance, not deteriorate, relations between them.

The only vulnerability in this relatively secure setup is if the US and its proxy NGO affiliates succeed in brainwashing the Russian-Kazakh population with Pravy Sektor- and Navalny-esque extreme nationalism, which could then create a delicate geopolitical situation where the raucous Russian minority agitates against Astana and attempts to drive a wedge between Kazakhstan and Russia. Security officials in both states are likely well aware of this obvious scenario and can be predicted to have rehearsed coordinated contingency measures for responding to it. Nonetheless, if such a virulent, discriminatory, and destructive ideology as “Greater Russian Nationalism” is allowed to fester in multicultural Kazakhstan and parts of the Russian Federation itself, then a scandalous outbreak in the Near Abroad could provoke a simultaneous cross-border event inside of Russia, especially if ‘sleeper sympathizers’ organize anti-government protests against Moscow’s “betrayal” of its compatriots out of its refusal to replicate the Crimean scenario in Northern Kazakhstan.

Another destabilization possibility that mustn’t be discounted in Kazakhstan is a repeat of the Zhanaozen riots, the ‘localized’ Color Revolution attempt that was sparked by a simmering labor dispute in 2011. The oil field workers were fed up with what they complained to be poor working conditions, low wages, and unpaid salaries, and this created an attractive atmosphere for Color Revolutionaries to exploit. Keeping with Color Revolution tradition, the riots started on 16 December, the 20th anniversary of Kazakh independence, and were presumably expected to signal the beginning of the regime change attempt to other cells across the country, almost one year to the day that the “Arab Spring” Color Revolution first broke out in Tunisia.

Seething with preexisting anger, the workers were extraordinarily easy to exploit, and the carnage they committed killed over a dozen people and injured more than 100 before a state of emergency and necessary military intervention restored order. The authorities’ decisive reaction and the multicultural, patriotic identity of most Kazakhs can be credited with preventing the spread of the Color Revolution virus from the distant Turkmen border all the way to centrally located capital, but the strategic lessons that can be learned from this episode are that: labor disputes and organizing could be both a cover and spark for a Color Revolution; and that destabilizations could start outside of the major cities and originate in the far-flung provinces.

Kyrgyzstan:

This tiny mountainous republic is notably split along a steep North-South divide, with the capital of Bishkek being located along the northern plains while the major population centers of Jalal-abad and Osh reside in the southern Fergana Valley. The clan-based nature of Kyrgyz society has played a strong role in influencing the political system, and this has consequently created identity resentment among whichever group was disproportionately underrepresented at the given moment. Although the situation has relatively stabilized and become somewhat more ‘equitable’ since the 2010 Color Revolution, clan-based tension and its geographic affiliations are still deeply ingrained in the national psyche, and any visible calmness simply belies the aggravating tensions that lay just beneath the surface. As confirmation of this assessment, one need only remember the misleading “stability” that many had inaccurately judged to be prevalent in the country just prior to the 2005 and 2010 Color Revolutions, and after witnessing the ferocious clan-based and ethnic violence that exploded after each of them, it’s improbable to assume that the individual drivers of such identity conflicts simply disappeared on their own after only half a decade.

What really happened is that they went underground as usual and abstained from the national discourse, while still remaining psychologically mobilized and ready to act the moment a future destabilization distracts or dissolves the security forces and provides another strategic opening for settling unresolved blood feuds that still linger from last time. The most violent-prone area of Kyrgyzstan is its southern Fergana region that abuts Uzbekistan, and it’s here where radical Islamic elements have taken root. The difficulty in forcibly eradicating them is that any major Kyrgyz security operation so close to the Uzbek border, let alone one that potentially targets ethnic Uzbeks, could create a hostile impression towards much-stronger Uzbekistan, which in turn could use the events as a pretext for activating a prearranged plan to mobilize in response to the ‘human rights violations’ allegedly being committed against its ethnic compatriots. Tashkent’s geopolitical loyalty has always been nebulous and ill-defined, and the country’s been working more closely with the US ever since the 2014 drawdown in Afghanistan. Washington needs a Lead From Behind partner in Central Asia, and it’s possible that Uzbekistan has been designated this role, which if it doesn’t comply with, could lead to the “Central Asian Spring” scenario that will soon be discussed.

To return to the Hybrid War threats facing Kyrgyzstan, it’s important to highlight that the country’s mountainous terrain is very accommodating to guerrilla warfare. The southern mountain ranges are sparsely populated and the government barely has any presence in some of the more isolated areas. Looking at the regional geography at play, it’s conceivable that Fergana-based terrorists could receive weapons and fighters from Afghanistan by taking advantage of the lack of governance present in Southern Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. After all, this route is already used to smuggle tons of drugs, so it’s certainly possible that it could be used to transport terrorists and weapons along the way as well (if this isn’t being done already). It’s very difficult for the Kyrgyz authorities to exert full control over this region because of tight financial and human resources, a current prioritization on the more populated areas, and the inhibitive geography involved.

To emphasize the last point, wintertime typically renders all of the few north-south roads impassable and strands the mountainous southern-based citizens in their villages for the duration of the season. This effectively splits the country into two, and if timed to coincide with a Hybrid War, then it could give the regime change insurgents active in that region enough time to consolidate their gains and prepare for the hostilities that would inevitably recommence after the snow melts in spring. When one thinks of a terrorist-driven “caliphate”, the last thing that probably comes to mind is a mountainous, snow-covered retreat, but this is exactly what ISIL or any likeminded group could feasibly create in Southern Kyrgyzstan if they played their cards ‘right’. It would be extremely challenging to dislodge the terrorists in such a scenario, and the danger in doing so would critically spike if it were revealed that they had access to anti-aircraft weapons. The Kyrgyz military would obviously be unsuited for such a difficult task and would have to resort to their Russian partners in the CSTO for assistance, with Moscow predictably helping through a combination of drone surveillance and air strikes just as it’s currently doing in Syria at the moment.

Tajikistan:

The threat facing Tajikistan is structurally similar to the one in Kyrgyzstan, and it’s that the country’s large swath of mountainous geography could be exploited by terrorist groups in facilitating smuggling routes or providing cavernous shelter. It goes without saying that Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan is perhaps its greatest vulnerability, but some respite could be found in the fact that there are more ethnic Tajiks in Afghanistan than in Tajikistan, and that if this community were properly mobilized to its fullest extent, then it could provide an effective bulwark against the Taliban and other terrorist groups. At the moment, however, this doesn’t seem to be the case, since the Taliban was able to briefly capture the northern provincial capital of Kunduz at the end of September and achieve their greatest military success since 2001.

Up to this point, it had been largely assumed that this part of Afghanistan was the least welcoming to the Taliban owing to the valiant history of the Northern Alliance and the relatively secular Tajik community that inhabits the region. What Kunduz taught observers is that these two factors are no longer the strongest determinants of regional security, and that the Taliban has succeeded in the past decade and a half in proselytizing their ideology, gaining sympathizers, and infiltrating enough fighters into the area so as to set up an effective base of operations. The converts that they’ve claimed, the supporters that they’ve acquired, and the terrorists that they’ve relocated to Northern Afghanistan all played an integral role in the Taliban’s capture of Kunduz, and just because they had to conventionally retreat from the city doesn’t mean that their soft infrastructure had to withdraw as well. The reason that this is relevant to Tajikistan is that it proves that the Taliban have a strong presence right along the Amu Darya river border and that fears about their cross-border militant potential are not misplaced.

More domestically, however, the greatest threat comes from the Islamic Renaissance Party, the newly banned organization that represented the last legal party of political Islam in the region. The process was in the works for a while, but ultimately it was decided that the group was full of terrorists and needed to be shut down as soon as possible, with the decision being spurred by rogue former Deputy Defense Minister Abdukhalim Nazarzoda’s coup attempt earlier that month. He and a group of followers slaughtered over 30 soldiers in the capital of Dushanbe before fleeing into the mountains where they were finally hunted down and killed a week later. The subsequent investigation revealed that the deputy head of the Islamic Renaissance Party, Mahmadali Hayit, had consorted with the coup plotters earlier in the year and that 13 members of the party were suspected of being involved in the attacks, so it makes absolute sense that the organization would be outlawed soon thereafter in the interests of national security. At the same time, however, the proclamation came so abruptly that the authorities didn’t have time to completely extinguish the organization, and countless sympathizers and probable sleeper cells can be assumed to be embedded in society. Whether they’ll make the transition to militant action on behalf of the terrorist organization or repent for their prior allegiance to it and disown its ideology remain to be seen, but the actionable threat remains nonetheless and is obviously a destabilizing factor that could be leveraged in any coming Hybrid War against Tajikistan.

Uzbekistan:

Aside from the “Central Asian Spring” scenario that will be detailed in Part IV, there are still quite a few other Hybrid War threats facing the region’s largest country. Uzbekistan is first and foremost threatened by a complete breakdown in law and order stemming from a succession crisis after the passing of Islam Karimov. The author previously explored the contours of these chilling possibilities in his piece “Uzbekistan’s Bubbling Pot Of Destabilization”, but to concisely summarize, the clan-based nature of Uzbek society coupled with the competition between the National Security Service and the Interior Ministry creates a cataclysmic scenario where a black hole of disorder arises in the heart of Central Asia and rapidly spreads throughout the rest of the region.

The only thing that could stop the previously held-together society from dramatically decentralizing down to Somalian-style warlordship would be the rapid reconsolidation of power under one of the two competing security agencies, but since their rivalry could predictably intensify in the days following Karimov’s death (and with the resultant security breakdown this would entail if they focus more on one another than on their designated subjects), it can’t be precluded that Uzbekistan could unravel before anyone realizes what even happened. Of course, if Karimov publicly designates a successor prior to his death or steps down and allows his designee to rule before then, this could potentially assuage the risks inherent in this scenario, but it doesn’t look too likely that this would happen, nor would these steps prevent the rival agency from attempting a major power play the moment the ‘head honcho’ inevitably dies anyhow.

Parallel with this possible tumult could be an explosion of terrorism from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Hizb ut Tahrir, ISIL, the Taliban, some yet-to-be-named organization, and/or a combination of these groups, which would exacerbate the already deteriorating security situation in the country and divide the security services’ focus even more. There’s also the likelihood that the Taliban or ISIL might even make a conventional move on Uzbekistan amidst the greater breakdown of regional order, which in that case would usher in a global crisis similar to the one that transpired when ISIL crossed into and began conquering Iraq.

Therefore, true to the theory of Hybrid War, any type of social disruption in the tightly controlled Uzbek society, be it through a Color Revolution, succession crisis, or a combination of factors, would create a tantalizing opportunity for Unconventional Warriors to rise up against the state and increase the odds of regime change. In this case, if there’s no real government in power at the moment, then it would prolong the “regime vacuum” and amplify country’s disorder until it reaches the critical point of spreading to its neighbors. Therefore, in such a scenario as the one previously described, it’s important for some leader or leading entity (e.g. military junta) to assume power as soon as possible in order to preempt a regional breakdown. In hindsight, it was precisely this quick emergence of leadership, however weak and fragmented, that emerged in Kyrgyzstan after the 2010 Color Revolution that helped to miraculously contain the chaos and prevent it from turning into a “Central Asian Spring”.

Before addressing this curious concept that’s been alluded to a few times already, it’s necessary to briefly touch upon a minor socio-political factor in Uzbekistan that shouldn’t be overlooked when discussing forthcoming disorder there. The autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan is a little-known administrative entity in the former Soviet Union that handsomely sits atop rich oil and gas reserves and provides transit to two energy pipelines to Russia. The dried-up majority of the Aral Sea has endowed the region even more oil and gas than was previously accessible, meaning that Karakalpakstan will likely become more important than ever to the Uzbek state.

Still, its energy potential isn’t the exact reason why the autonomous republic is brought up when discussing Hybrid War scenarios, since there lately have been whispers of a Karakalpakstan “independence” movement that provocatively wants to join Russia. In all probability, this isn’t a genuine movement but rather a proxy front controlled by the US to advance the objective of straining the already frayed ties between Russia and Uzbekistan. The appearance of a “pro-Russian” separatist organization at the crossroads of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan isn’t incidental, and its’ designed to destabilize the entire region if ever given the opportunity. On its own, the Karakalpakstan “independence” movement is powerless to do anything to upset the Central Asian balance, but in the event that the eastern more populated part of the country descends into bedlam following one or some of the abovementioned scenarios, then it’s likely that this group will emerge from the shadows (or more likely, be parachuted or infiltrated into the theater) to violently lay stake to its secessionist claim so that it can then transform into an American protectorate.

UZ_map

To be continued…

Andrew Korybko is the American political commentator currently working for the Sputnik agency. He is the post-graduate of the MGIMO University and author of the monograph “Hybrid Wars: The Indirect Adaptive Approach To Regime Change” (2015). This text will be included into his forthcoming book on the theory of Hybrid Warfare.

April 8, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CrossTalk: Ukraine’s Destinies

RT | April 6, 2016

The Netherlands is holding an advisory referendum on a key treaty between the European Union and Ukraine. This vote is important for a number of reasons – it is a unique opportunity to face head-on what many call the EU’s democracy deficit. Also, we will find out if the West’s institutionalized anti-Russia bias reflects the popular will.

CrossTalking with Ben Aris, Gilbert Doctorow, and Joost Niemoller.

See also:

Dutch Voters Reject Ukraine Deal

Consortium News | April 7, 2016

Dutch voters struck a blow against the E.U.’s Ukrainian association agreement – and the incessant Russia-bashing that has surrounded it – creating hope for less belligerence in Europe, writes Gilbert Doctorow. – Read article

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Video | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Escalated: In Pursuit of Hidden Agenda

By Pyotr ISKENDEROV – Strategic Culture Foundation – 06.04.2016

The sudden aggravation of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is fraught with serious consequences. The warring sides, as well as the OSCE (the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Minsk Group, have to realize that the situation may get out of hand and entail irreversible consequences against the will of the belligerents.

Armenian First Deputy Defense Minister David Tonoyan said in a statement made at the Sunday (April 3) briefing with foreign defense attaches that Armenia is ready for any scenario as the events unfold, «including direct military assistance to the security of the Nagorno-Karabakh republic».

The statement indicates that things will never be the same as before, especially after Turkey, Pakistan and some other countries have voiced their support for Azerbaijan. Once made public, the statements cannot be taken back. The development of events suggests that some forces pursue a hidden agenda in an effort to unfreeze the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and make the escalation irreversible.

In recent years, the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh worsened from time to time, but it never escalated to large-scale operations involving aviation and heavy equipment. Moreover, decisions to start combat actions can not be taken in absence of state leaders. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan were in Washington when the situation escalated overnight on April 2.

The outside factors probably play a much bigger role than it may seem at first glance.

Evidently, some countries, like Russia, for instance, have no interest in the escalation of the conflict in the Caucasus. Moscow plays the leading role in the crisis management efforts. It has always strived for developing mutually beneficial ties with both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The aggravation of the conflict creates a problem for the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Unlike Azerbaijan, Armenia is a member of the CSTO, which is to defend it if attacked. But the organization has no obligations to defend the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. Article 4 of the Treaty states «If an aggression is committed against one of the States Parties by any state or a group of states, it will be considered as an aggression against all the States Parties to this Treaty. In case an act of aggression is committed against any of the States Parties, all the other States Parties will render it necessary assistance, including military one, as well as provide support with the means at their disposal through an exercise of the right to collective defense in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter».

The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is not covered by the Treaty, but the broad interpretation of its text may lead to misunderstanding inside the CSTO between Russia and Armenia on the one hand, and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan on the other hand.

Obviously, the bloodshed does not meet the interests of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, outside forces have entered a «window of opportunity» to incite Baku.

Now who gains as a result of Azerbaijan’s involvement in the conflict? There are at least three parties to benefit.

Turkey tops the list. Having suffered a defeat in Syria and in face of growing impact of the Kurdish factor, Erdogan could go as far as sparking the Caucasian hotbed to entangle Russia. His plans may envision provoking a confrontation between the Russian Federation and NATO. If so, he could have given certain assurances and guarantees to Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev during his visit to Turkey on March 15.

Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper warned about possible escalation of the conflict in February.

The information was confirmed by the fact that the air forces of Azerbaijan and Turkey held March 7-25 joint military exercises TurAz Shahini-2016 in the Turkish province of Konya as part of the TurAz Qartali program of military cooperation. The exercises were held in accordance with the annual plan of joint training events that kicked off last September.

The United States, or, to be more precise, the circles in Washington interested in keeping up tensions in the relationship with Moscow, is the second party, which has a stake in the conflict’s flare up. The goal is to weaken the Collective Security Treaty Organization and create snugs on the way of post-Soviet space integration. Sparking a conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is the best way to do it.

The third party interested in the conflict is the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, especially Qatar. This country has close ties with Turkey. It challenges Saudi Arabia as the leader of the organization. Besides, there are heightened tensions between the Gulf Cooperation Council members and Iran. Iranian Azerbaijanis account for 15-16% of the country’s population. Tehran has had good relations with Erevan ever since early 1990s. Like Russia, it has no interest in inciting the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Qatar and Turkey enjoy special relationship. They are known for tacit support of Muslim Brotherhood. It would be logical to surmise that both countries coordinate policies on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

Azerbaijan and the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh said on April 5 they were halting hostilities after four days of intense fighting.

The world community pins great hopes on the ability of the OSCE to prevent the worst from happening .

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wolf Pack vs. Bear

By Anne Williamson | LewRockwell | April 16, 2015

Having now had a year’s time to get better acquainted with their new Ukrainian friends and the neighborhood overall, Europeans are losing their taste for economic sanctions on Russia.

Contrary to American assurances, economic warfare against Russia meant to compel the return of Crimea to Ukraine hasn’t worked. Nor did the Ukrainian military’s campaign against the Donbas tame the Russian “aggression” mainstream media shouts about daily. All Europe has achieved to date is tens of billions in lost trade and Russia’s abandonment of the South Stream pipeline.

The Russians were building South Stream to insure the – politely put – “integrity” of gas flows to Europe while in transit across Ukraine, and put an end to the country’s 24-year racket of holding Russia’s energy commerce with Europe hostage by virtue of having inherited a key segment of the Soviet pipeline network. The loss of jobs and transit revenues their participation in the construction and operation of South Stream promised was keenly felt in Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Austria, France, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and Germany have all taken serious losses thanks to the trade sanctions as well.

Trade and employment losses coupled with some USD 40 billions more in IMF loans to Kiev, whose proceeds are most likely to be spent – at the US’s insistence – on yet more war, and the growing misery of all the Ukrainian people are typical of the now familiar results of US-organized sedition abroad. However, those results are usually observed in militarily weak, third world nations the US chooses to undermine for whatever reasons, and certainly not on the continent their most loyal and most capable allies occupy.

Besides which, the whole cockamamie story the US has been pushing vis a vis Crimea is falling apart. The fact that one year on there are no Crimean protests and no “Back to Kiev!” grass root committees has undermined the entire premise of the sanctions. Even year long multiple polling by western agencies has shown that large majorities of Crimeans have no regrets concerning the 2014 reunification with their motherland of some 300 years.

In truth, the world owes a debt of gratitude to the Russians. While US State Department operatives busied themselves in Kiev with constructing an interim, post-coup government of fascist stooges and native oligarchs, the Russians’ deft and lightening re-absorption of a willing Crimea took the meat right off the table. The American greenhorns in Kiev were left dumbfounded, and hopping mad.

With the Black Sea port of Sevastopol safely in Russian hands, and the country’s immediate strategic interests secure, there was no need for war. Given time, the Russians know Ukraine as presently constituted will defeat Ukraine, and that not even a Himalaya of dollars and the sacrifices of several generations of Ukrainians will put the country back together again. Default will be Ukraine’s only escape route.

But it is the antics of hyperbolic NATO operatives (Dragoon Ride, a Conga line of armored Stryker vehicles and troops rolling across Europe from the Baltics to central Europe in a “show of force,”) the bloviating of chest-beating US generals (the only way “to turn the tide” is “to start killing Russians”) and the dumb bellicosity of the US Congress for having authorized the export of lethal weaponry to Kiev that finally got the EU leadership looking sideways at one another. Just exactly what has the US gotten them into?

But it was the EU itself who bought, by bits and by pieces, into America’s scheme. The events in Ukraine have left the European Union naked before her own members’ populations, exposed as a highly-bureaucratized system of US vassalage so thoroughly in harness individual nations actually agreed to harm their own economies in pursuit of US policies. There’s a reason for the EU’s acquiescence: The EU and its leadership stands to gain should State Department neoconservatives deliver on their promises. The EU will get bigger and its artificial and suffocating institutions more deeply entrenched.

How so?

The only direction in which the EU can expand is to the East. Ukraine, Moldova, Transdniestr, Armenia and Georgia were all believed ripe for the taking, and each is or was being pursued with EU “association agreements,” which subvert each country to EU dictates while holding the prize of EU membership in abeyance.

Absorbing such contrarily-organized lands is the work of decades. No matter. Their capture alone will enable the ECB to go on an immediate super-binge of vendor financing, which it is believed will conjure up jobs, export profits, and, the ECB (European Central Bank) hopes, a new round of euro-based credit expansion and piratization that will, in the fullness of time, strip the newly “associated” lands and their citizens of their savings and property. Once the fiat money-engineered boom begins to fade, the expectation is that ongoing economic warfare against Russia, directed and policed by the US, will at last bear fruit. Only a small shove and a slight push will be needed to topple and then shatter Russia into bite-sized pieces for the west’s further consumption.

So set upon this course is the US that the White House’s recent offer of a slippery framework to Iran to conclude the Israeli-manufactured dispute over the country’s nuclear enrichment program has the look of arbitrage, indicating there are limits to just how much havoc Washington can create and oversee abroad. Besides, Iran is currently useful in the conflict with the US-created ISIS. With sanctions lifted, the flood of Iranian oil and gas coming to market would further harm Russia’s economic interests while supporting the building of new pipelines to Europe originating in the Middle East and North Africa (under indirect US control) and sparing any further need for US ally Saudi Arabia to continue pumping low-priced oil for which there is insufficient global demand.

As long as Angela Merkel keeps Germany on board, and Germany continues to fund the stagnant EU, the US’s high-tech version of a medieval siege of the Kremlin can proceed.

With new multilateral treaties agreed under cover of tax and banking transparency (FATCA) now in place, the US is well on its way to being able to track in real time every currency unit on the planet that is emitted, earned, deposited, withdrawn, spent, invested, loaned, and borrowed by means of the banks, long seen as a US-engineered globalism’s most effective police force. European governments’ war on cash is meant to insure all commerce will flow through the banks and therefore be recorded. These new surveillance capabilities will be exploited to the maximum in the case of both Russia and hesitant Europeans for the purposes of blackmail, extortion, and control.

In a digital battlescape staffed by the west’s soldiers of finance, winter will not save the Russians.

Another attack strategy the US is about to deploy, drawn not from history but from nature, is that of the wolf pack. Though NATO troops will bedevil Russia’s borders, no western troops will actually set foot on Russian territory prior to the country’s imminent collapse. That would be dangerous, but the more proxy wars and political upheavals the US can stir up along Russia’s periphery while the motherland suffers and declines under the west’s economic blockade, the better.

Necessary and experienced personnel are being appointed and NGOs beefed up in preparation for brewing new crises and rainbow revolutions along Russia’s “soft, underbelly”: the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, which both Armenia and Azerbaijan claim, in Kyrgyzstan where the south and the north are alienated from one another, in Uzbekistan where control of the Fergana Valley is in dispute with Kyrgyzstan, and in Georgia, which hopes for the return of Ossetia and Abkhazia. Carrots and sticks will miraculously set many a fire.

Keeping those flames under control will seriously tax Russia’s resources.

US objectives include busting up the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), whose members include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), whose members include China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia, and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), whose members – to date – include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia.

However, there are problems with the above scenarios unfolding as planned.

US foreign policy assumes everyone on the planet wants to be an American, or – second best – a recipient of American interest and munificence, a notion which the state has successfully sold only to movie-mad foreign teenagers and naive Americans. Rather than being an advertisement for the benefits of American intervention, the Ukraine America is building might better serve as one for the beneficial avoidance of same through membership in the EAEU.

Russia is hardly new to the protection game. Armenia and Georgia, the first Christian nations on earth, soon found themselves unmoored in a sea of Islam. Each petitioned the Kremlin for inclusion into the empire. They wanted and needed the protection of the “Third Rome,” and they got it. Today Armenia wisely continues to huddle close to Russia, eschewing the opportunity of becoming a battle station in any anti-Azeri US campaign, while a US-enamored Georgia still chafes at the protection the US provides their former proxy, the corrupt Saakashvili regime. Azerbaijan has but to look at Iran to see what misfortune the US is quite willing to hand round. Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have the example of their war torn neighbor, US-occupied Afghanistan, to contemplate.

US foreign policy further assumes that targets will stand still and only stare into the blinding glare of America’s oncoming headlights.

Russia’s abrupt shut down of the South Stream gas pipeline’s construction and the rapid replacement of European entry points and participants with a single exit point in Turkey from which Russian gas will flow to the rest of Europe through Greece along pipes it is now the EU’s responsibility to finance and build has put paid to that assumption. It is not only Russia that has an exploitable “soft underbelly.”

Despite the mainstream media’s shameless dissemination of western governments’ fatuous propaganda, and of what is sure to be an exploding supply of tit for tat, sufficient information is available to anyone who cares to look to determine who is destroying and who is trying to build, who is seeking peaceful co-operation and increasing trade and commerce between nations and who is demanding obedience to its diktat while waving a mailed fist.

To paraphrase Mae West, “Democracy has nothin’ to do with it.”

It is certainly an irony of history, wild and raw, that Vladimir Putin, a man who once described himself as “a pure and utterly successful product of a Soviet patriotic education,” is today seen by an increasing number of alarmed citizens worldwide as liberty’s if not civilization’s best, if inadvertent and imperfect, hope. But those souls should have no illusions. Whatever the Russian president does, he will do for Russia’s sake, not ours.

But if Russia cannot stand, we will all sink together into tyranny or eternity.

April 18, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment