Week in Review - October 31, 2014

Middle East and North Africa
Latin America and the Caribbean
Central Eurasia

Middle East and North Africa

  • Turkey reversed its policy and has allowed approximately 150 Iraqi Kurds to travel through Turkey to reinforce Kurds in the besieged city of Kobani, Syria. The Kurdish Peshmerga forces are reportedly bringing heavy weapons including artillery and anti-tank weapons, but will only play a reinforcing role and not engage in direct combat. Simultaneously, Turkish jets flew over northern Iraq targeting members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters, who Turkey considers terrorists, but also have close connections with the Syrian Kurds defending Kobani.
  • Two separate attacks on security forces in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula left 31 Egyptian soldiers dead. In response to the attacks, Egyptian officials announced a plan to demolish 600 homes in the city of Rafah, which will displace 10,000 residents, to create a buffer zone along the Gaza border. Meanwhile, several Egyptian newspaper editors pledged to limit criticism of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and his administration in support of the governments national security policies. Thomas Carothers, of the Carnegie Endowment argued that the Sisi administration’s stifling of civil society and peaceful mobilization will only reinforce “the perpetuation of the bad-governance patterns that will likely spell his eventual political failure.”
  • Clashes in Yemen between Houthi militias and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continued. Sanaa security director, Colonel Abdulrazaq al-Moayyed announced (Arabic) that the Houthi militia members would be incorporated into the government police forces following training and uniforms by Yemeni forces. The Houthi militias currently maintain checkpoints around Sanaa and control other cities throughout the country.


Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Following increasing civil unrest, the President of Burkina Faso Blaise Compaore resigned. Protests grew violent in the capital Ouagadougou after the president tried to change constitutional term limits to stay in power. The country’s army has seized control and announced that it will head an interim government until new elections are held. Burkina Faso is a key U.S. ally in combating terrorism in the Sahel Region. In the last two years the U.S. government provided over $16 million in mainly counterterrorism assistance.
  • The Institute for Security Studies released a report calling for more clarity in the African Union’s roles and responsibilities vis-à-vis individual countries where peacekeeping operations take place. Meanwhile, the French defense minister criticized the slow deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in Mali, which he claimed further exacerbated Islamist militant attacks.
  • African Union and Somali forces declared a major victory over al-Shabaab when it forced the terrorist group out of its last stronghold in Barawe. For six years, Barawe served as al-Shabaab’s headquarters. This victory comes in the same week that Uganda started to deploy 2,700 more troops to Somalia, with a new commander, to further contain the al-Shabaab threat in East Africa. 


Latin America

  • As Mexican authorities continue to search for the 43 students who went missing near the town of Iguala last month, President Enrique Peña Nieto met with the victims’ families, who were apparently unsatisfied by the gesture. While authorities have discovered numerous mass graves in the area, none of the human remains recovered have been identified as those of the missing students. The government ordered the arrest of the former mayor of Iguala in connection with the incident, but he remains at large. While the governor of Guerrero state, where Iguala is located, has stepped down and his interim replacement has promised new security measures to restore law and order to the area.
  • During the latest round of peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel group, the guerrillas agreed to recognize the impact that the decades-long civil war has had on civilians. The conflict has taken a huge toll on Colombian citizens, with some 5.7 million internally displaced and more than 200,000 killed over the years. The rebels have also agreed to recognize members of the Colombian military as victims.
  • The issue of violence against women in Latin America received significant attention this week. A survey by Thompson Reuters and YouGov found that many women feel unsafe using public transportation in major Latin American cities, such as Bogotá and Mexico City.


Central Eurasia

  • The U.S.-appointed Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko and his team published a series of major reports. One report raised concerns over the United States’ decision to classify its assessments of the Afghan national security forces’ capabilities, leaving SIGAR “without a critical tool” to publicly report on the Afghan army’s effectiveness. SIGAR also shed light on the U.S. army’s refusal to prevent known supporters of the Afghan insurgency from receiving government contracts, citing concerns over using classified information to conduct such activities. In a separate report, SIGAR found irregularities with a major contract to renovate Afghanistan’s largest prison. After paying $18.5 million to a contractor that reportedly cut corners, the State Department terminated the $20.2 million contract, leaving the prison infrastructure overhaul half-finished.
  • French Finance Minister Michel Sapin stated in an interview that France has not yet made a final decision on whether to deliver the controversial Mistral warships to Russia, despite a senior Russian defense official recently claiming French authorities are ready to make the delivery. Michel Sapin refuted the claim, saying “conditions have not today been met for delivering the Mistral,” and he said France’s decision would depend on whether Russia “plays a positive role” in de-escalating the conflict in Ukraine. The deal was signed by the Sarkozy administration and Russia in 2011 predating the crisis in Ukraine