IW Roundup — April 19, 2021

This Week in Irregular Warfare

Secretary of State makes unannounced visit to Afghanistan; China concerned over U.S. withdrawal; U.S. presses regional actors to cooperate in Afghan peace process; Sri Lanka & Pakistan ban political organizations; and more…

Welcome to the latest installment of The Irregular Warrior’s news digest on Irregular Warfare and Special Operations. We hope you’ll find this collection to be interestingly broad in its scope, in addition to bringing you the stories most relevant to U.S. readers. Now on to the roundup:

US Secretary of State makes unannounced visit to Afghanistan

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken had an unannounced visit to Afghanistan following President Joe Biden’s call for withdrawing all military forces on September 11. Blinken had meetings with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and National Reconciliation Chairman Abdullah Abdullah. The Secretary of State reassured Afghan leaders about continued US support after troops withdrawal and asserted that withdrawal was another chapter in US Afghan relationship. The Washington Post, April 15. [Blinken makes unannounced stop in Afghanistan amid calls for troop withdrawal – The Washington Post]

Continued support from a major donor country (or, preferably, multiple donors) is vital to continued viability of the regime. No Afghan government has succeeded in the modern era without outside assistance—including the Taliban.

China concerned over US withdrawal from Afghanistan

China expressed its concerns over US withdrawal from Afghanistan as says terrorists might take advantage of the vacuum created as a result of the military pull out. China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian bashed American government for linking troops withdrawal to the threats posed by China. He asserted that the question of terrorism in Afghanistan remains unsolved, hence Biden administration should accommodate regional states legitimate concerns regarding the post-withdrawal scenario and troops must be withdrawn in a way that does not provide terrorists the space to strengthen their position. The Hindu, April 15. [‘Terrorist forces’ may take advantage of U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan: China – The Hindu]

Regional players pressed as Biden announced Troops pull out from Afghanistan

President Joe Biden announced complete withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan before September 11. In his speech, American President warned Taliban to fulfill their commitment and maintain peace in the country and not allow any terrorist outfit to threaten US and its allies. Along with that, President Biden coercively instructed regional players namely India, China, Russia, Turkey, and—in particular—Pakistan to cooperate in bringing peace to Afghanistan. Iran was notably not among those Biden called to support the peace process. Dawn, April 15. [Biden presses Pakistan as he announces Afghan exit – Newspaper – DAWN.COM]

With or without the U.S. directly involved in the fighting, the active cooperation of bordering states is vital to the peace process. In particular, these states must ensure that their territory is not used as a sanctuary for the Taliban or other spoilers, and that illicit trafficking is kept to an absolute minimum. Major powers, as current or potential donors, can also have a major impact on both the Taliban and the government by setting and enforcing expectations and standards.

Sri Lanka banned 11 extremist organizations

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in an official announcement banned 11 extremist organizations including al Qaeda and ISIS, under Prevention of Terrorism (temporary) Provisions Act, for their links to violent activities in the country. Local Muslim groups like Sri Lanka Islamic Students Movement have also been banned. The Hindu, April 14. [Sri Lanka bans 11 extremist groups, including ISIS and al-Qaeda – The Hindu]

Drone attack at Iraq’s Erbil Airport

On Wednesday, a drone attack targeted U.S. forces at the Erbil airport in northern Iraq. The interior minister of Kurdistan regional government confirmed that no one was hurt in the attack. It was also confirmed that the unmanned drone carried TNT, targeting U.S. forces. Claims have been made that a militia group linked with Iran conducted the attack, however no one has yet claimed responsibly. The Hindu, April 15. [Drone targets U.S. troops at Iraq’s Erbil airport – The Hindu]

Look for more of attacks like this as Iran seeks to increase pressure on the Biden administration in advance of expected talks on Iran’s nuclear and rocket program, its support of violent non-state actors, and U.S. sanctions.

Pakistan to ban Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan under anti-terror law

The government of Pakistan has decided to ban the Religiopolitical organization TLP under Anti-terror law. The Interior minister announced on Wednesday that Punjab provincial government had recommended to ban the outfit and the summary has been sent to federal cabinet. The supporters of the organization were protesting against the blasphemous caricatures launched in France and demanded to cease trade activities and send French ambassador home. However, after the leader was arrested the protest became violent and attacked policemen and law enforcement agencies. Dawn, April 14. [Government has decided to ban TLP under anti-terror law, says interior minister – Pakistan – DAWN.COM]

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