World View: Russia Declared ‘Mission Complete’ in Syria, but the War Rages On

The Associated Press

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Russia declared ‘Mission complete’ in Syria and withdrew, but the war rages on
  • Bangladesh’s Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) terror group targets ‘atheist bloggers’

Russia declared ‘Mission complete’ in Syria and withdrew, but the war rages on

Syrian soldiers celebrate their victory against ISIS in Qaryatain, Syria, on Monday. (AP)
Syrian soldiers celebrate their victory against ISIS in Qaryatain, Syria, on Monday. (AP)

A limited cease-fire went into effect in Syria on February 27. Then, on March 15, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin announced that most of Russia’s forces in Syria would be withdrawn because “the objectives set before the Defense Ministry and the Armed Forces have on the whole been achieved.”

The cease-fire had been mostly holding, despite some violations. But now it may be collapsing. On Friday, jihadists working with rebel groups scored a new victory over the army of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, by taking over the village of Al Eis 16 miles southwest of Aleppo. According to the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front), al-Nusra Front militants deployed three suicide bombers and a number of armored vehicles to breach the government’s defensive lines and take over the village.

The capture of Al Eis is a strategic victory because it controls a section of the M5 highway, a vital artery that serves as the backbone of the country’s road system. The al-Nusra militias were aided by militias from the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), as well as from some so-called “moderate” anti-Assad rebel militias. The three groups have very different objectives, but they have one objective in common: the defeat of Bashar al-Assad.

We might presume that al-Assad’s army can pull together enough troops and, with the help of massive bombing by Russian warplanes, can recapture Al Eis. But the point of mentioning this victory by the anti-Assad forces, even if temporary, is that the cease-fire, if it ever existed, is collapsing.

As I wrote several times in February, the “cessation of hostilities” ( “12-Feb-16 World View — US and Russia agree to a farcical ‘cessation of hostilities’ in Syria”) and cease-fire had absolutely no chance of succeeding for several reasons:

  • It does not apply to ISIS.
  • It does not apply to al-Nusra.
  • It does apply to the moderate anti-Assad rebels, but they have indicated that they would never accept any deal that did not require al-Assad to step down.
  • It does apply to Bashar al-Assad and his army, but he says that he is going to continue to bomb and massacre “terrorists,” in which he includes innocent Sunni women and children.
  • It does not resolve the issue of YPG Kurds in Syria, who are allies of al-Assad and Russia, but who are considered by Turkey to be among the terrorists who are bombing civilians in Istanbul and Ankara.

There have been talks of a “political solution” in Syria for over a year, and I always wondered what ISIS and al-Nusra would do when presented with a “political solution,” given that they are not part of the peace negotiations in Geneva. When I wrote about the Geneva ‘proximity talks’ in January, I had just heard a BBC analyst who gave an answer to that very question. He said that once a political solution was reached, then all the Sunni jihadists would leave ISIS and al-Nusra, and go home, since the political solution would leave them no more reason to fight, and then ISIS and al-Nusra would dissolve.

As I said at the time, this is the kind of Fantasyland and state of total denial that the politicians live in. The fall of Al Eis is an indication that the war will go on for some time, because none of the major participants in Syria really wants it to end.

In 2003, the American military declared “Mission accomplished!” in Iraq. Now Vladimir Putin has done the same in Syria. I would be very surprised if Russia is really finished in Syria. LA Times and Reuters

Bangladesh’s Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) terror group targets ‘atheist bloggers’

A significant danger to Bangladesh and to the entire region is the rapid growth of a new generation terror organization, the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), which particularly targets tech-savvy college educated intellectual jihadists. It differs significantly from older major militant Islamic fundamentalist groups because its main goal is not fighting or influencing the political-administrative structures in order to implement their Islamic fundamentalist ideology, or to carry out spectacular terrorist attacks to discredit the state to gain publicity.

Instead, their focus seems to be the eradication of secular or atheist bloggers, or any other media people who they believe pose a threat to their fundamentalist Islamic teachings and lifestyle. The main targets are liberal, independent and secular academic and independent intellectuals, bloggers and cultural personalities.

For example, on May 12, 2015, Ananta Bijoy Das (32), a progressive writer, blogger, editor of science fiction magazine Jukti, and an organizer of Gonojagoron Mancha (People’s Resurgence Platform), was hacked to death, using machetes, by four assailants. Earlier, on March 30, 2015, another blogger and online activist, Oyasiqur Rahman Babu (27) had been hacked to death in broad daylight in Dhaka city for his allegedly atheist views. In 2013, ABT had issued a list of 84 “atheist bloggers” on the grounds that “All of them are enemy of the Islam.”

ABT is distinguished from better known Islamist extremist groups in Bangladesh by its propaganda and indoctrination capabilities. ABT projects its doctrine of jihad through 117 web pages, including Facebook and Twitter handles, and various blogs. Unlike older jihadist groups, ABT is able to adapt quickly to new government security measures, and so presents an enormous danger to Bangladesh and the region. E-International Relations (30-Jan) and South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP – India) and The Hindu 24-Sep-2015

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Russia, Syria, Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Nusra Front, Afghanistan, al-Qaeda, Bangladesh, Ansarullah Bangla Team, ABT, Ananta Bijoy Das, Oyasiqur Rahman
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