Turkey opens a new front in Syria
On Sunday, January 21, Turkey launched a ground operation named Olive Branch and opened up a new front in Syrian civil war. The operation is directed against Kurdish YPG militias in northern Syria and aims to establish a secure zone along the border. The land offensive was preceded by intensified artillery and air strikes, after which the Turkish army and their allied Free Syrian Army rebels entered the city of Afrin.
Nato pleads for restraint as Turkey battles Kurdish militia in Syria. https://t.co/O1lBDuTE63
— Turkey News (@Turkey) January 26, 2018
There is a number of concerns about the new offensive in the international audience. U.S. secretary of defense James Mattis warned that the situation could be exploited by ISIS and Al Qaeda, who were by now mostly forced into obscurity. Washington also backs YPG in other parts of Syria as a leading force against ISIS and the situation could potentially end with two NATO allies on the opposing sides of a single war front. Russia seems supportive of the offensive. While calling for restraint, according to the New York Times, it also “opened the skies of Afrin” to Turkish warplanes. Iran and Egypt condemned the offensive, along with Syrian government, which also threatened to target Turkish jets in its airspace. The offensive as of the beginning of February is still ongoing and intensive.
The murder of Oliver Ivanović and the implications for the Serbia-Kosovo relations
On January 16, Oliver Ivanović, a prominent Kosovar Serb politician, was shot dead by unknown perpetrators in Mitrovica. His remains were transported from Kosovo to Belgrade under police escort and buried on January 25
It is unclear who was behind the murder, but there were repeated threats and attacks due to his opposition to local (Serbian) criminal organizations. Allegations of Russian involvement in the murder have also appeared.
Ivanović was the head of Kosovo Serb “Freedom, Democracy, Justice Party” and was due to attend EU-mediated talks between Serbian and Kosovar officials in Brussels, whose goal was to normalize Serbia-Kosovo relations. Serbian President Vučić declared that Ivanović’s murder was an act of terror and that his killers will be found at all cost. Serbian National Security Council held an emergency meeting and Serbian delegation returned from Brussels to Serbia.
Deeply saddened by murder of Oliver Ivanovic in Kosovo today. He certainly had enemies on both sides of the deep divide that he was one of the too few trying to bridge. RIP https://t.co/jsuNgKoIzZ
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) January 16, 2018
Ivanović’s murder is a test for the relations between Serbs and Albanians. On multiple occasions, he served as a mediator between these two groups in Kosovo and always advocated for a peaceful coexistence. Serbian and Kosovo authorities agreed to share information on the investigation. Although this seems promising, Kosovo and Serbia need to continue the talks in order to reach a comprehensive settlement.
Terror attacks in Kabul
A second terror attack on the hotel Intercontinental in Kabul, took place on January 20. According to the Afghan authorities at least 29 people were killed. There are reportedly several foreign nationals among the victims, including the USA, Germany or Ukraine. Taliban has claimed the responsibility for the attack.
Six attackers, armed with guns, grenades and suicide vests, stormed into the hotel through the kitchen and opened fire on the hotel guests. Survivors and witnesses later said, they were primarily looking to kill foreigners and did not want to target Afghans. Some of the guests managed to escape through the window. Several guests have been rescued by the Afghan special forces, who, after 12-hours gun battle, have killed the attackers.
Interestingly enough, the attack happened only three weeks after the hotel security was handed to a private military company, Kabul Balkh Safety & Security . The debate about private military companies is a „sensitive“ topic for Afganistan, as many of them are involved in crimes such as smuggling or corruption.
Another at least 95 dead and around 200 injured people became victims to another , Taliban claimed, attack in Kabul just one week after the militants stormed the Intercontinental hotel.
— اطلاعات روز – Etilaatroz (@dailyetilaatroz) January 27, 2018
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a bi-weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into broader context.
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