rick rozoff

Defence minister: military bases soon to have NATO-standard infrastructure
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 22 2021

Georgian Defence Forces bases across the country will soon enjoy NATO-standard infrastructure, minister Juansher Burchuladze announced on Thursday in his presentation of the ministry’s 10-year action plan.

PR firm wins new contract with NATO
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 22 2021

Agenda Global, an international public relations firm headquartered in Albuquerque and Washington, announced Thursday it had won its second consecutive five-year contract with NATO. The firm said in a statement that it has worked on numerous campaigns with NATO since 2011, including the #WeAreNATO campaign, which launched in 2017, to promote the alliance among members of the public in the treaty’s 30 member countries in North America and Europe.

US bombs four countries in 25 days
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 22 2021

Afghanistan; Somalia; Syria; Iraq.

NATO provides Turkey training for shooting down more Russian aircraft
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 22 2021

Turkish Fighters Deployed to Poland Make Their First Intercept
SHAPE, Jul 21 2021

RAMSTEIN, Germany – Two Turkish F-16s flying from Malbork, Poland under NATO’s Air Policing mission made their first intercept of an unknown aircraft on Jul 20 2021. In the morning of Jul 20, the Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, Germany, recorded an unidentified track in the Baltic Sea flying from Kaliningrad to mainland Russia and ordered an alert scramble for the Turkish F-16s mission to identify that track. After take-off, the Turkish F-16s, flying under NATO control approached and identified a Russian Il-20 (COOT ALPHA).

Pentagon deploys “combat-credible” 1st Infantry Division to Poland
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 22 2021

1st Infantry Division Forward assumes authority of Atlantic Resolve Mission Command Element
US Army Europe, Jul 21 2021

The Atlantic Resolve Forward Division Headquarters serves as the intermediate headquarters between US Army Europe and US regionally allocated forces deployed throughout the eight eastern European Atlantic Resolve countries (Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Romania, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia). In Feb 2018, the 1st Infantry Division deployed to Poznań, Poland, for the first time as the Mission Command Element of Atlantic Resolve. This deployment continues that tradition. The deployment of ready, combat-credible US forces to Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve is evidence of the strong and unremitting US commitment to NATO and Europe.

Turkish military “neutralizes” several more Kurds in three separate nations
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 22 2021

Turkish security forces on Thursday neutralized at least seven PKK terrorists in three operations in eastern Turkey plus the border regions of northern Iraq and northern Syria.

Euphemism: a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.

Murder: the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.

Turkey to enforce US/NATO line on China’s Xinjiang, pressure Pakistan to join
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 22 2021

Turkish daily mulls Ankara-Islamabad ties amid developments in Afghanistan
Vugar Khalilov, Azeri News, Jul 22 2021

An opinion piece in Turkey’s Yeni Shafak newspaper has analyzed the future of Ankara-Islamabad ties amid NATO’s new policies in Turkestan and Afghanistan. Stressing that after the withdrawal of the US troops, Turkey, as a NATO country, has been “assigned” a new role in Afghanistan and Turkestan region, the daily said that the US goal in the region runs counter to that of China that has close relations with Turkey’s ally Pakistan. “The question to be asked in the Afghanistan issue is how Turkey’s playing a dominant role in Afghanistan through a NATO mission will affect Pakistan-Turkey relations.” Reminding that Pakistan has extremely close relations with China and stands on a line close to China in the “game,” the newspaper questioned: “How will our Pakistani friends respond to Turkey’s appearance in Afghanistan through a NATO mission and its inevitable party to the East Turkestan issue in line with the policies of the USA and NATO? The President of Turkey, of course, rightly warned China over East Turkestan with his latest speech. We do not know the reflection of this in Pakistan. Why is Pakistan, an Islamic state, so silent about what is happening in East Turkestan, which is a Muslim? Why can’t Imran Khan take a clear stand in the face of the questions asked to him on this matter?” The newspaper said that China and Russia are extremely active in Central Asia region that is among hotbeds in the world. “From one hand, Russia is meeting with the Taliban; on the other hand, it is trying to establish military bases by negotiating with Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Turkey’s expectation is to turn its presence in Afghanistan into an opportunity and to get a little closer to the Turkish world. At the final stage, there is a design to implement the Union of Turkish States.” “I don’t know how Turkey and Pakistan will get out of this. But these two “friend” and “brother” states and peoples are expected hard days in the turmoil of the Central Asia,” the article concluded.

East Turkestan Islamic Movement threatens to stoke instability in Xinjiang after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan
Salman Rafi Sheikh, Asia Times, Jul 6 2021

As the US accelerates its withdrawal from Afghanistan, China is worried about the instability to come. In May, after a series of explosions in Kabul that killed 60 people including several schoolgirls, China’s Foreign Ministry spox Hua Chunying said America’s “abrupt” withdrawal was a factor in the violence. Hua said the US needed to withdraw its troops “in a responsible manner” that avoids “inflicting more turmoil and suffering on the Afghan people.” What she didn’t say, however, is what China fears the most about America’s troop withdrawal from Afghanistan: a revival of the fundamentalist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and its cross-border agitation and terrorism in China’s volatile Xinjiang region. The ETIM, also known as the Turkistan Islamic Movement, is an ethnic Uighur militant group active in Afghanistan that has long sought to achieve independence for Xinjiang, which it envisions as a future “East Turkestan.” The ETIM is also active in Syria’s civil war, where battle-hardened fighters have largely been grouped in Idlib and other northern regions. The UN has categorized the group as a “terror organization” since 2002. Curiously, the former Donald Trump administration removed ETIM from America’s terror list in Nov 2020, saying at the time there was “no credible evidence” that ETIM still exists.

As the Taliban surges north in the wake of America’s troop withdrawal, it seems likely only a matter of time before the militant group overruns Kabul and its US-backed government, and establishes in its place a new “Islamic Emirate,” as it has repeatedly said it aims to do. A Taliban takeover, analysts and observers believe, will open new space for groups like ETIM to recruit and radicalize Uighur youth, many of whom are already reportedly deeply disaffected by reports of Beijing’s Uighur “vocational camps” and authoritarian control of Muslim religious practices in Xinjiang. For Beijing, however, the concern is not merely the spread of radical ideas among Uighur Muslims in neighboring Afghanistan. Rather, it is the threat a resurgence of extremism could pose to its strategic Belt and Road Initiative in the region, not least in Pakistan. Four of China’s six so-called Silk Road networks, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), emanate from or pass through Xinjiang. Those roads aim to connect China with Russia, Central, Southern and Western Asia, reaching the Mediterranean Sea. Specifically, Silk Road networks other than the CPEC that run through Xinjiang include the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor, the New Eurasia Land Bridge Economic Corridor and the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor.

While the departure of US and NATO forces from neighboring Afghanistan is no doubt broadly welcomed by China, it also puts Beijing in a new strategic quandary, one that could make or break its BRI ambitions in the region. To be sure, Beijing’s concerns about the ETIM in Afghanistan are not simply an exaggerated threat assessment to justify its authoritarian control of Uighurs in Xinjiang. In 2008, China’s Ministry of Public Security released a list of eight “terrorists” linked to ETIM with detailed charges against them, including threats to bomb the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Despite the Trump administration’s denials, a recent UNSC report confirmed that ETIM not only exists, and operates in Afghanistan but is also pursuing a “transnational agenda.” According to the report, ETIM is among the “foremost” foreign terror groups operating in Afghanistan. The report says ETIM is situated mainly in Badakhshan, Kunduz and Takhar provinces and that Abd’ul-Haq (Memet Amin Memet) remains the group’s leader. The report goes on to say approximately 500 ETIM fighters operate in the north and northeast of Afghanistan, primarily in Raghistan and Warduj districts, Badakhshan, with financing based in Raghistan. Those northern areas connect with China through the narrow Wakhan Corridor, a potential passageway for Xinjiang-bound militants. The UN report says ETIM collaborates with Lashkar-e-Islam and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, two banned Pakistani militant groups. It also said ETIM “has a transnational agenda to target Xinjiang, China, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, as well as Chitral, Pakistan, which poses a threat to China, Pakistan and other regional States.”

Beijing has been pursuing a multi-faceted strategy to counter ETIM’s threat. While it has stressed a “responsible” withdrawal of US and NATO forces meaning a withdrawal that comes only after a political settlement is reached between Kabul and the Taliban, it has equally established relations with both warring sides. While it has offered Kabul to train and advise its security forces, with reports in the Chinese media even indicating a possible deployment of Chinese forces in Afghanistan to prevent ETIM fighters from using the Wakhan corridor in Badakhshan province to cross unchecked into Xinjiang, it has also offered Taliban “development” in exchange for peace. Beijing’s definition of peace, however, does not simply refer to the absence of civil war in Afghanistan. Rather, it also and mainly stresses the importance of not providing any safe heavens to ETIM fighters. Observers and analysts, however, doubt that the Taliban will force the ETIM out of existence at Beijing’s request. On the contrary, the Taliban are going to need as many fighters on its side as possible to win its war for Kabul.

President Ashraf Ghani vowed this week to launch a “counter-offensive” amid widespread reports of national troops defecting to the Taliban as it advances northward in the wake of the US troop withdrawal. That likely means that the ETIM will not only be one of the chief beneficiaries of the Taliban’s war to establish an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan but will also likely be able to carve out the space to continue its pro-Uighur campaign in Xinjiang. Its position will also be strengthened by the presence of other jihadi groups, including al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Afghanistan (IS-K), both of which sympathize with the so-called “Uighur cause.” In 2017, the Iraq-Syria based ISIS released a video of Chinese Uighur Muslims threatening to return home and “shed blood like rivers.” The 30-minute video shows Uighur fighters in training interspersed with images from inside the ethnic minority’s Xinjiang homeland, replete with scenes of Chinese police on patrol. The fact that the US has already withdrawn ETIM from its terror organization list means that the militant outfit has likely had the space to grow its logistical and financial resources, manpower and weaponry.

Growing indications that Turkey, home to a sizable Uighur population including thousands who have fled persecution in Xinjiang, may play a direct military and diplomatic role in Afghanistan after America’s withdrawal also raises risks for China. Turkey’s now well-known use of jihadi fighters in Syria for essentially geopolitical objectives will make its future presence in Afghanistan unsettling for Beijing. Turkey, now pursuing pan-Islamist “neo-Ottoman” ambitions, has been championing the Uighurs cause for some time. When China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Turkey in Mar 2021, about a thousand Uighur protesters were allowed to gather in Istanbul to protest his diplomatic presence. In that sense, China is not only facing a few hundred ETIM fighters in Afghanistan. Rather, it could face a combined force of thousands of jihadis backed by state and non-state actors with direct territorial access to Xinjiang via Afghanistan. Analysts suggest China’s position is also compromised by the lack of any significant on-the-ground human intelligence networks and an ability to intercept or pre-empt anti-China terrorist formations in Afghanistan. Recent reports indicate Beijing is trying to get a grip on the situation: In Dec 2020, a Chinese spy ring was arrested in Afghanistan, according to media reports. Although Beijing denied the allegation, Ahmad Zia Saraj, the chief of Afghanistan’s National Directorate Security, confirmed to the Afghan Parliament that the arrests had indeed been made. What information the reputed spies may have gathered and transmitted to Beijing before their apprehensions, however, is unknown.

Belarus: European leaders bringing world closer to WW3
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 22 2021

Speaking to Sky News Arabia on Jul 19, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko warned that the escalating campaign against his nation by the EU and its military enforcement arm, NATO, portends a worsening crisis not only in the region, not only on the continent, but in the world as a whole. Since last year’s presidential election in Belarus, the head of state and other officials have warned of the threat of an invasion of the country by NATO, acting in particular through Lithuania and Poland. Except for its border with Russia, Belarus is surrounded by NATO members (Latvia, Lithuania and Poland and NATO Enhanced Opportunities Partner Ukraine). Those four countries have a combined population of 88m; Belarus of 9.5m.

NATO has Enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroups in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland; the Pentagon has troops and armored vehicles assigned to Operation Atlantic Resolve in the three countries as well. NATO conducts around-the-clock air patrols with advanced-generation combat aircraft from bases in Lithuania and Poland as well as nearby Estonia. Currently the US is leading the Three Swords war games with the Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian brigade in Ukraine against the backdrop of the host country’s president and other officials claiming for months that Belarus is somehow a threat to it, particularly when the joint Belarusian-Russian Zapad 21 exercises get underway in September. Britain alone has trained over 20k Ukrainian soldiers to NATO standards. Turkey has provided the nation’s air force and navy with Bayraktar TB2 combat drones and is commissioned to provide Kiev with several corvettes to be used against Russia in the Black Sea. Ukraine is a military threat to Belarus and not the reverse. The Belarusian president’s comments included:

By creating here, in the center of Europe, a hotbed of monstrous tension, by launching a hybrid war against us and against Russia and China, the Europeans are creating not just a hotbed of tension in the very center of Europe. They are all taking us closer to WW3.

Lukashenko would have a stronger moral case if, as a member of CSTO, his nation had supported Russia in 2008 when it intervened to protect South Ossetia after Georgia invaded it, Armenia during last year’s Azerbaijani-Turkish invasion of Karabakh, and Armenia again when over 1k Azerbaijani troops invaded the nation in May. Instead Lukashenko in all three cases was among the first to embrace the aggressor: Georgia’s Saakashvili in 2008 and Azerbaijan’s Aliyev last year and this. When Armenia brought the case of Azerbaijani troops violating its territorial integrity and refusing to leave its land before the CSTO, its secretary general, the Belarusian Stanislav Zas, dismissed the armed incursion and occupation as a “border incident.” Nevertheless, when Lukashenko’s own fat is in the fire he doesn’t hesitate to speak candidly, as these excerpts from the television interview demonstrate:

This is politicians’ madness. And I understand why this is happening. Because the European Union, Western Europe, first of all, are colonial states. The relationship of the United States of America with European countries is that of a metropole with subordinate colonies. Many events in the countries of the European Union, even in the most powerful of them, are orchestrated by the United States of America. The events run by the Americans in Europe are generally beyond the control of even the leaders of these countries.

Belarus, through some combination of preference and necessity, has strengthened state-to-state, economic and military ties with Russia and China among other non-Western nations lately. Much as with Syria, over which Russia and China cast 16 vetoes in the UNSC, and in the process halted plans by the US and its NATO allies to replicate their Yugoslavia and Libya war models there, Moscow and Beijing may be compelled to intervene on behalf of Belarus. And perhaps more than diplomatically. In that instance Lukashenko’s admonitions may not be far-fetched.

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