Day long siege of the United States Embassy and Nato command in central Kabul brought to an end

Afghan forces, aided by ISAF have managed to end the attack on the US embassy, Nato headquarters and police buildings in Kabul. A bomb planted on a military bus in Iraq has killed 15 Iraqi soldiers and wounded 20 others. Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh has authorized his deputy to negotiate a power transfer. Turkey insists its warships will escort aid vessels to Gaza as it also requests US to base predator drones on its territory.

Yesterday, militants launched a co-ordinated attack in Kabul, targeting Nato’s headquarters, the US embassy and the Afghan intelligence agency. The attack left thirteen people dead, and many more injured. Militants were able to infiltrate a building under construction nearby and set up positions from which to attack various targets. The building was close enough to the US embassy for the attackers to be able to fire rockets and throw grenades. It is reported that the property suffered minor damage on outer boundary walls.

Even though the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, Kabul’s deputy police chief and Ryan Crocker, the US Ambassador in Kabul, suggested that it was the Haqqani network, a group operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan with links to both the Taliban and Al Qaeda. During the attacks, two other events also took place, a suicide bomber detonated himself in front of a police building and in the west of Kabul, another bomber blew himself up near Habibia high school. The attack comes three days after a truck bombing on an Isaf base in Wardak left 77 US troops and 25 Afghan workers injured.

The openSecurity verdict: The Senate appropriations defense subcommittee has decided to freeze defense spending for next year’s budget keep it to $513 billion. A decision has also been taken to reduce $1.6 billion from the funding to train Afghan forces and an additional $5 billion from other war-related activities.

Even though it is important to note that such an attack does not show a relative increase in the capabilities of insurgents, the balance of forces may well change if Isaf forces withdraw as planned from front lines in 2014, leaving an inexperienced Afghan military and police to deal with militants. Such a situation is likely to lead to a deterioration of overall security in the region, not to mention the impact it may have on a renewed construction of terrorist hubs across Afghanistan.

Even without significant capability, it is clear that the insurgents are making sure their presence is felt in government controlled areas, while they still dominate much of rural Afghanistan. Given the current political dynamics, whereby the country is ruled by a small elite class, who control most of the resources, an American withdrawal in 2014 could well poise the return of Taliban, as they are likely to make populist promises to the Afghan people. They are likely to base their argument on the defense of Islam against colonial forces, coupled with the promise of economic development and clean governance, promises that, while farfetched, may be seen as equally credible as those coming from the Kabul government.

Washingto, and it’s polices have clearly failed here to make much headway towards winning the hearts and minds of much of the Afghani people. Not only are memories of a war involving high civilian casualties remembered and created afresh, but tactics of assassination, drone warfare and arming tribal militias continue to offend. Until such measures are thought to be justified by concrete and widespread improvements in meeting human security and other basic needs, America's and Kabul's credibility will continue to flag.

Multiple attacks result in military and civilian deaths in Iraq

In Iraq a series of suicide attacks on military and civilian targets has left over twenty people dead. These attacks can be attributed to the disputed sectarian divisions operating within the country. In Anbar Province, a bomb was planted inside a bus transporting soldiers for a meal at Camp Habbaniya, a military installation in the west of Ramadi. 

In Babil Province, a car bomb was detonated in front of a popular restaurant leading to many civilian casualties, including women and children. This restaurant is used regularly by the provincial security forces and it is likely that they were the prime targets of this planned bombing. Elsewhere in Babil province, tortured bodies of Shiite labourers were found by a highway and just last week eight members of the security forces travelling in a minivan through Anbar were killed by insurgents.

The events highlight the increasingly fragile situation in Iraq, especially with regards to sectarian violence. This violence is likely to cause continued instability for the Shiite majority government. Assaults on both the civilian and security forces are on the rise, and this has created a dilemma for Iraqi politicians who have to decide whether to ask Washington to delay its planned troop withdrawal by the end of this year.

Ali Abdullah Saleh asks his deputy to process a power transfer deal

Growing civil unrest and an increase in violence have forced the embattled Yemeni President, Ali Abdullah Saleh to propose a transfer of power with key opposition parties. Saleh gave Vice President Abd Rabo Mansou Hadi the constitutional authority to form dialogue and engage the signatories on the initiatives by ‘the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council for Arab Gulf States’. The opposition parties however have rejected this proposal and instead pressed Yemeni citizens, in particular the youth, to increase pressure on Saleh’s party till it falls. This was acted upon in a recent protest, as Yemenis took to the streets and demanded Saleh’s immediate resignation and departure of the rest of his regime. Even the UN’s intervention to implement the Gulf initiative has failed, and it seems increasingly likely that Saleh will simply have to walk away.

Meanwhile, Yemen has been the scene of increasingly violent events, as Saleh’s son has deployed the Republican Guards on the streets of Sanna; a decision that is likely to infuse further tension. Moreover, Yemen also faces a growing threat from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who continue to implement plans to avenge the joint Yemeni-US airstrikes on AQAP strongholds in Zinjibar and Jaar in Abyan province and Shabwa province, respectively. On Wednesday, three blasts occurred at an intelligence headquarters and a police station in Aden. Given the political crisis in Yemen, the growing alienation of its citizens, increased use of organized violence and the danger of AQAP infiltration, it seems that Saleh will have no choice but to resign.

Turkey moves onto drone diplomacy by asking the US to place predators in the country

The situation in the middle east has been steadily deteriorating following a series of incidents involving Israeli and Turkish disputes. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expelled Israel’s ambassador to Turkey, cut all government, military and trade ties and authorized the Turkish navy to prepare to send three warships to the Eastern Mediterranean. If sent, these ships are likely to be mandated to protect humanitarian aid ships to the Gaza strip; it is highly unlikely that the two will engage in firing weapons as that would mean a declaration of war.

Meanwhile, Erdogan has set off on a tour to Egypt, Tunisia and Libya and put his weight behind the Palestinian cause. This populist move is likely to win him support with Muslims in the middle east and it is also a clear attempt at reaffirming Turkey’s new found leadership position in the region as an economic and political giant; one which also has ties to Nato itself.

Turkey is in a strong bargaining position, which means that it has the ability to support Palestinian statehood and balance this with its ties to Nato and the US, which effectively means that the US would never allow a full scale war between its ally (Israel) and a member of the NATO (Turkey). The recent inclusion of Turkey in Nato’s missile defense shield, whereby an early warning system will be placed in the southeast of the country, highlights the continuing importance of Turkish friendship to its Nato partners. 

Turkey has also requested that the United States base a fleet of Predator drones in the country. The suggestion is that the drones would aid Turkey in dealing with Kurdish militant groups in Northern Iraq.

About the author

Humayun Saleem graduated with an MSc in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. His work focuses on South Asia, East Asia and South East Asia.