World View: Afghanistan Withdrawal a Logistical Nightmare

World View: Afghanistan Withdrawal a Logistical Nightmare

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Timbuktu’s ancient history at risk over chaotic Mali rebellion
  • Azerbaijan story creates firestorm between Washington and Israel
  • The logistical nightmare of leaving Afghanistan
  • Kyrgyzstan agrees to continue hosting U.S. base in Manas

Timbuktu’s ancient history at risk over chaotic Mali rebellion

Even people who have never heard of Mali have usually heard of Timbuktu, or at least have heard phrases like “from here to Timbuktu.” Founded between the 5th and 11th centuries by Tuareg desert nomads, Timbuktu became a meeting point between north, south and west Africa and a melting pot of black Africans, Berber, Arab and Tuareg desert nomads. The trade of gold, salt, ivory and books made it the richest region in west Africa and it attracted scholars, engineers and architects from around Africa, growing into a major centre of Islamic culture by the 14th century. Timbuktu is home to nearly 100,000 ancient manuscripts, some dating to the 12th century, preserved in family homes and private libraries under the care of religious scholars. However, the city is poor now, and is at the center of attacks by Tuareg rebels and al-Qaeda linked jihadists, while Mali itself is being governed by the head of a botched coup. (See “31-Mar-12 World View — Timbuktu surrounded by rebels with Mali’s junta government in crisis”) It’s feared that the violence will lead to the destruction of the manuscripts and Timbuktu’s great earthen architectural wonders. AFP

Azerbaijan story creates firestorm between Washington and Israel

Attentive readers may recall that last week I posted a story that Azerbaijan has granted Israel access to air bases on Iran’s border. Then, two days ago, I posted another story that Azerbaijan is strongly denying the story, pointing out that they have nothing to gain by giving Israel such access, and that it threatens their relationship with Turkey. Azeri president Ilham Aliyev later dismissed the speculation and said, “Azerbaijan’s territory will never be used to launch an attack against its neighbor, Iran.” This situation is causing a diplomatic firestorm, as it’s beginning to appear that the Obama administration purposely leaked the Azerbaijan story in order to make it more difficult for Israel to use the base as a springboard to launch an attack on Iran. (It’s worth noting that a direct attack from Israel to Iran would require crossing air space monitored or controlled by the U.S., so launching from Azerbaijan would allow Israel to keep the attack secret from Washington until it’s well underway.)

A new report says that the Obama administration is blaming Israel for the recent rises in gasoline prices. According to the report, the Israeli leadership believes that Obama is blaming the rising gasoline prices on “Israel’s posturing” on Iran, and that the Obama administration was staging a campaign to undermine Israel. According to analyst Robert Satloff, who returned from talks with Israeli officials: “I cannot underscore how deep and visceral the [Israeli] comments of the leaking that came out of Washington were,” especially because of repeated leaks by the Obama administration. Israel National News

The logistical nightmare of leaving Afghanistan

Nato forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan in 2014, having failed in its mission to pacify the country, just as Russia and Britain have failed in similar missions in times past. Now the U.S. faces a logistical nightmare in transporting its troops and equipment home after ten years in the landlocked country. Transportation routes through central Asia require permission from the individual countries, and run over poor roads and bridges that provide plenty of opportunity for terrorist attacks. The U.S. would like to build a Nato base in Ulyanovsk, named after Bolshevik Revolution leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, whose real name was Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. City officials love the massive economic boost that the operation would bring to the city, but Communist Party leadership is leading a “No NATO base in Ulyanovsk!” campaign. If the massive logistical retreat fails, then large caches of weapons will be left behind in Afghanistan — something that Russia and China do not want to see happen. Spiegel

Kyrgyzstan agrees to continue hosting U.S. base in Manas

The U.S. has previously been ordered to vacate its air transit center in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, when the current contract expires in 2014, but now Kyrgyzstan has agreed to permit the U.S. to continue using the base past 2014. The U.S. is providing substantial military assistance to Kyrgyzstan in exchange. It appears that Kyrgyzstan’s change of heart came about due to the encouragement of Russia, who wants the U.S. to remain in the region in order to provide stability. Jamestown