Afghanistan Update: 27 August, 2021 10:00 AM Eastern

After yesterday’s twin suicide bombings that killed 90+ people including 13 US troops, air operations have resumed, and the evacuation is again underway. The operation has reached its final phase with the United States planning to remain until 31 August if necessary. Many other Western nations have brought their operations to a close or will do so by the weekend. Canada, Spain and Germany have both ended evacuation flights. France will halt its operation today. As many nations wind down their respective operations, Turkey is in discussions with the Taliban over the future of Kabul airport once international forces depart. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said his government’s talks have centered on Turkey running the airport. For the short term at least, Kabul’s airport needs to remain operational if Afghanistan’s new leaders are to have a functional relationship with the outside world. Turkish troops and equipment have been a part of NATO’s commitment.

In the United States, the Biden administration is contending with heavy blowback after yesterday’s suicide bombings. President Biden’s handling of the Afghan crisis has come under close scrutiny and received significant criticism from the US public. Last night after Biden addressed the nation he followed up by taking questions from the reporters on hand. Unfortunately, the president started off with a shocking admission: “Ladies and gentlemen, they gave me a list here. The first person I was instructed to call on was Kelly O’Donnell from NBC.” That statement ignited a firestorm on social media with many people wanting to know just who is calling the shots at the White House. Biden has long relied on a list of pre-selected reporters, however, yesterday’s admission, coming hours after the deaths of 13 US soldiers struck a decidedly sour note with some. Biden did state last night that the US is committed to completing the evacuation and promised ISIS-K will be targeted in the future.

26 August Afghanistan Update: Kabul Suicide Bombings Kills 12 US Troops

12 US soldiers have been killed and at least 15 wounded in a pair of suicide attacks outside of the gate at Kabul Airport earlier today.  Eleven of the dead were US Marines and the twelfth one a US Navy corpsman. The attacks were labeled as ‘complex’ by the Pentagon and they would have had to be, considering they took place within a stone’s throw from the airport gate according to earlier reports. Early indications are leading US sources to believe the attack was conducted by ISIS-K, an offshoot of the Islamic State and rivals of the Taliban. There have been warnings over the past week that ISIS-K could pose a threat to the operations now underway at the airport. Although Kabul and much of Afghanistan have been overtaken by the Taliban, a vacuum continues to exist in many respects around the country. Security is one area in particular, as we’ve seen today.

Last week, President Biden said that his administration has made it clear to the Taliban that any attack on US forces at the airport in Kabul, or disruption of operations at the airport will be ‘met with a swift and forceful response.’ Right now, the world is waiting to see how the United States and its president respond.

Author’s Note: Looks like the updates are back now, for a little while at least.

Easter Terror in Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka was rocked by explosions at churches and hotels in the capital city of Colombo early Sunday morning. The casualty count is high and will likely rise in the coming hours. As of now 207 people have died and 408 have been injured. Three churches were targeted with blasts occurring there during Easter services. The other explosions took place at four hotels around Colombo. The Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels were confirmed to have been struck, as well as one unnamed hotel.

The Sri Lankan government is treating this as a terror incident. There are reports surfacing that seven suspects have been arrested although this has yet to be verified. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks. A national curfew has been put in place, and social media across the country has been blocked. Rumors of more attacks planned in the coming hours have prompted Sri Lankan officials to urge its citizens to stay in their homes and remain calm. Security has been increased at Bandaranaike International Airport, the nation’s main airport, and the military has been deployed in large numbers.

The international community is rallying around Sri Lanka right now.  President Trump has offered condolences and said the United States is prepared to help. Other world leaders have sent similar messages as well. There’s been an outpouring of condemnation in the aftermath of the attacks. The fact that the attacks have come on Easter Sunday make them even more heinous in the eyes of the world, and has led some to wonder if the motivation behind these bombings was religious in nature.

Saudi Crown Prince Arrives on the Subcontinent as Tensions Rise

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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will start his tour of South Asia and China today in Pakistan. He arrived in Islamabad on Sunday and was greeted at the airport by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, and given a welcome befitting a foreign leader. Shortly after Salman’s arrival, Pakistani and Saudi officials signed a number of investment deals that will total more than $20 billion. Pakistan’s economy has been in need of rejuvenation,  which is a prime reason why Salman’s visit is seen as so significant.

His arrival in Pakistan comes amid heightened tensions on the subcontinent. On 14 February, a suicide bomber killed 44 Indian paramilitary police in the Kashmir region. India believes Pakistan had a role in the attack and has promised to punish Islamabad. Thursday’s attack was the deadliest to take place in Kashmir in decades. India has vowed to isolate Pakistan in the diplomatic world, and affect its economy negatively.

The Pakistani government denies any involvement in the attack. This morning, shortly after Salman’s arrival in Pakistan, a suicide attack on a Pakistani army convoy on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) route between Turbat and Pangur killed 9 and wounded 11. Baloch Raji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS) has claimed responsibility for the attack.

As if this were not enough, Iran is pushing Pakistan to take sterner measures against the Jaish al-Adl terrorist organization following a suicide attack in Iran on Wednesday that killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps soldiers. Jaish al-Adl is based in Pakistan. Iran has lodged a formal protest with the Pakistani government, and behind the scenes has issued a warning that if Pakistan cannot contain and punish Jaish al-Adl, Iran will be forced to.

All of these incidents, as well as Pakistan’s economic difficulties, and rising tensions with India are adding more scrutiny to Salman’s tour. The Saudis intended for the visits to be an effort to rebuild the reputation of not only Salman, but Saudi Arabia is a whole. The problems on the subcontinent could provide Riyadh with geopolitical, and economic opportunities, as well as good publicity provided Salman plays his cards right.

 

Thursday 16 February, 2017 Update: ISIS Bombings In Iraq & Pakistan

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ISIS has claimed responsibility for a pair of bombings that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people in Iraq and Pakistan today. In Baghdad, a car bomb exploded at a used car marketplace in the Bayaa neighborhood in the southern portion of the city. The death toll right now sits at above 50 with an even larger number of wounded. It is the deadliest attack so far this year in Iraq, a nation that is no stranger to large-scale terrorist attacks. Recently, the number of bombings in Baghdad has been on the rise. On Wednesday, a suicide car bomb attack in the Sadr City area left 11 dead. The neighborhood where today’s the attack took place is no stranger to bombings either. On Tuesday, a car bomb in the same area killed 4 people.

A suicide attack in Pakistan targeted a popular Sufi shrine in the town of Sehwan. The shrine is one of the most revered in Pakistan. Thursday was a sacred day for Muslims to pray there and the shrine was crowded at the time of the attack. At least 72 people were killed and that number will possibly rise as time goes on. Since last Sunday, Pakistan has experienced six suicide attacks, resulting in the deaths of over 100 people. The attacks in Pakistan provided a sharp reply to statements by the civilian and military authorities suggesting Pakistan had defeated the militants there.