Week in Review - October 3, 2014

Sub-Saharan Africa
Central Eurasia
Latin America and the Caribbean
Middle East and North Africa

Middle East and North Africa

  • U.S. airstrikes on the Islamic State (IS) continued in Iraq and Syria. In May of this year, President Obama refined U.S. airstrike requirements for targeted killings to have “near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.” However, Pentagon officials suggested this week that strikes against IS will not be held to the same standard. Meanwhile, the U.K. joined the U.S.-led coalition with surveillance flights and airstrikes, Australia’s cabinet approved military operations, Denmark will deploy seven F-16s, and Canada will provide up to six CF-18 fighters, refueling aircraft, and surveillance planes. All non-Arab allies have confined airstrikes against IS to Iraq and rejected strikes in Syria. However, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with France’s Defense Minister to discuss possibly expanding French airstrikes into Syria. Additionally, Turkey's parliament approved the use of force against IS and to allow foreign troops to be based within Turkey. Turkey has expressed its interest in establishing a no-fly zone near the Turkish border that would protect minority populations from Syrian government airstrikes.
  • American University Professor Gordon Adams questioned the efficacy of decades of U.S. military assistance programs that seek to train and equip partner nations’ security and police forces. Adams notes that despite ten years of U.S. military training and funding, the Iraqi army still lacks the capacity to properly ensure security within the country. Illustrating this point, Iraqi pilots mistakenly dropped food and ammunition to Islamic State militants instead of Iraqi ground forces this week. In addition, as the U.S. and other nations aim to enhance Kurdish peshmerga forces’ capacity, Australia and the U.S. have delivered sophisticated weaponry. However, the lack Kurdish troops trained for the weaponry has slowed the distribution of the weapons to fighters in combat areas.
  • Although the government of Lebanon penned a $1 billion emergency military assistance package with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf State is postponing the completion of a larger $3 billion grant to the Lebanese Army to buy French weapons until assurances are made that any military assistance will not go to Hezbollah. Meanwhile, it was reported that Egypt’s $3.5 billion deal with Russia is expected to include submarines, surface-to-air missile systems, jets, and small arms.


Sub-Saharan Africa

  • The United Nations named Anthony Banbury head of its Ebola mission in West Africa where it will coordinate from its new headquarters in Accra, Ghana. U.S. troops have begun efforts to assist with medical logistics, naming as their first goal the construction of a 25-bed hospital for Ebola-infected health workers. However, Kim Yi Dionne in the Washington Post criticized the militarization of humanitarian aid as an inappropriate precedent for future global health and humanitarian crises.
  • Despite the Nigerian military insisting Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was killed, a video surfaced this week of a man claiming to be Shekau refuting the military’s claims. Meanwhile, it was reported that 97 Nigerian soldiers are to be court-martialed for mutiny, assault, and a refusal to fight against Boko Haram insurgents. And Defence Web reported the purchase of the first of two helicopters for the Nigerian Air Force, which will join Nigeria’s helicopter fleet that is set to expand following a recent order for an estimated 40 Mi-35M and Mi-171Sh helicopters
  • Anti-piracy issues also came to the forefront this week. Salon described the rise of West African piracy as “terrifying,” with growing instances of armed robbery and kidnapping in the Gulf of Guinea causing great concern for regional and international actors. South Africa, concerned with the rise in piracy threats, announced it will deploy warships to the area to contain the threat. Similarly, piracy issues in East Africa triggered China for the first time to send a submarine to take part in anti-piracy patrols.


Latin America

  • Amnesty International released a scathing report on the “widespread” use of torture by Mexican police. Mexico’s security forces have come under heavy criticism for their human rights record for years, but especially recently with regard to the June 30 killing of 22 suspected gang members in Tlatlaya by the army. Initially, the army defended the soldiers’ actions but Mexico’s Attorney General has since claimed that the troops acted without just cause.
  • Venezuelan congressman Robert Serra was murdered in his Caracas home according to Venezuelan authorities. Serra’s killing comes amidst ongoing tensions between supporters of the ruling socialist PSUV party, like Serra, and opposition movements. Earlier this year, violent anti-government protests resulted in dozens of deaths, including demonstrators as well as security forces. Meanwhile, President Nicolas Maduro recently announced new measures to deal with unruly protests.  
  • In an operation supported by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Guatemalan police, Honduran authorities captured José Inocente Valle Valle, a member of one of the country’s most power drug-trafficking families. Honduran officials released a statement indicating that the operation was part of a larger effort to completely dismantle the Valle cartel. The U.S. treasury department has designated several members of the Valle family as high-level drug traffickers under the so-called “Kingpin Law.” Inocente Valle is the first member of the Valle cartel captured within Honduran borders.


Central Eurasia

  • Delta, a Georgian armored vehicle manufacturer beat out the U.S., Saudi and United Arab Emirates bids in a Saudi Arabian military competition, making it to the final rounds of testing. The vehicle’s preliminary success marks a significant step forward for the Caucasian country’s relatively new arms industry. Delta has expanded its international profile recently, resulting in sales relationships with 22 countries in Africa and the Middle East.
  • The presidents of the five countries surrounding the Caspian Sea - Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Russia and Turkmenistan - held a meeting where they agreed to prevent any outside military presence on the sea. While some analysts view this as an initiative directed at NATO, Joshua Kucera of EurasiaNet argues that the U.S. is the intended recipient of the message pointing out that Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have all received U.S. assistance in developing their navies. Although Azerbaijan signed the ban, it has since stepped back suggesting the ban has not been finalized.