World View: Afghan Taliban Launches ‘Spring Fighting Season’ with Kabul Explosion

The Afghan Taliban have announced the start of their 'spring offensive', even as the government in Kabul tries to bring the insurgents back to the negotiating table

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Afghan Taliban launches ‘Spring Fighting Season’ with massive Kabul explosion
  • China tests its DF-41 long-range nuclear missile with multiple warheads
  • Turkey threatens to cancel migrant deal unless visa restrictions are lifted by June
  • Violence surges in Syria as ‘peace talks’ collapse becomes official

Afghan Taliban launches ‘Spring Fighting Season’ with massive Kabul explosion

Aftermath of Tuesday's terror bombing in Kabul Afghanistan
Aftermath of Tuesday’s terror bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s Taliban announced last week the beginning of its “Spring Fighting Season,” and launched it on Tuesday with a massive attack on a government security agency on Kabul. The attack combined a suicide car bomb with gunfire, killing 28 people and wounding at least 327.

The attack comes with Afghanistan’s government in total chaos, because of the bitter feud between President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah. Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise trip to Kabul to instruct Ghani, Abdullah, and the other the politicians on how to run their government. ( “12-Apr-16 World View — Troubles mount for Afghanistan government as US withdrawal looms”)

Putting the best face on it, Ghani said the attack “clearly shows the enemy’s defeat in face-to-face battle with Afghan security forces.” However, those results have clearly been fixed, with the Afghans scoring military successes in the northern part of the vast country, while the Taliban have been gaining ground in Helmand Province.

For American policy and President Obama’s administration, there is one major conundrum: Does the US continue its policy of withdrawing forces from Afghanistan, risking a total collapse in security as happened in Iraq? Or does the US reverse policy and add forces to Afghanistan, thus reneging on Obama’s previous commitments? AP and Daily Times (Pakistan) and AFP

China tests its DF-41 long-range nuclear missile with multiple warheads

China conducted another flight test of its newest and longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile last week. The flight test of the new road-mobile DF-41 missile took place Tuesday with two multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs. This means that a single missile could deliver a nuclear weapon to two separate targets.

As we wrote three weeks ago ( “1-Apr-16 World View — China close to deploying very long range DF-41 missile”), it is believed that a fully-deployed DF-41 will be able to carry up to 10 MIRVs. A DF-41 can travel over the Pacific Ocean and strike any city in the western US, or travel over the North Pole and strike any city in the eastern US, in each case within about half an hour. China has the manufacturing capacity to produce hundreds of these missiles, and clearly is preparing for war and planning to use them. Washington Free Beacon

Turkey threatens to cancel migrant deal unless visa restrictions are lifted by June

Tensions are increasing quickly over a crucial provision of the EU-Turkey migrant deal, whose purpose is to slow the flow of migrants traveling from Turkey to Greece by means of a provision that permits Greece to return migrants back to Turkey.

In return for the migrant deal, the EU made several commitments to Turkey:

  • Visa liberalization: Turkish citizens will be able to travel in the EU without a visa by the end of June 2016.
  • The EU will pay Turkey 3 billion euros in aid for refugees, disbursed as quickly as possible, followed possibly by another 3 billion. The EU was supposed to have already paid a portion of this aid, but hasn’t.
  • The EU and Turkey will “reenergize the accession process” to make Turkey a member of the European Union.

The June deadline for visa-free travel is quickly approaching. On Monday, Turkey’s prime minister Ahmed Davutoglu bluntly warned that the migrant deal will be off if visa liberalization is not implemented:

This is a mutual commitment.

If the EU cannot take the necessary steps required of it then of course it cannot be expected of Turkey to take these steps.

I maintain my belief that, God willing, we will have the visa exemption in June. In the absence of that, then of course no one can expect Turkey to adhere to its commitments.

Turkey must meet 72 criteria by May for the visa liberalization to be granted. Davutoglu says that 44 of the criteria have already been met, and the rest will be met by May.

However, a new report by the European Parliament appears to contradict Davutoglu’s claim. The report is extremely critical of the situation of basic rights and freedoms in Turkey. It is also heavily critical regarding a number of other significant issues, including the situation in Syria, rule of law, the situation with the armed Kurdish opposition, the negotiations on Cyprus, independence of the judiciary, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and the normalization of relations with Armenia.

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at the report:

The European Union needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the European Union.

Three million people have been looked after in this country so they don’t disturb the Europeans. Is there anything about this in the report?

At a time when our relations with the European Union are in a positive phase regarding the migrants… it is provocative to come out with a report like that.

There is a great deal of opposition in the EU to visa-free travel by Turkish citizens, so this issue is expected to become a crisis next month. Hurriyet (Ankara) and Daily Sabah (Istanbul) and AFP

Violence surges in Syria as ‘peace talks’ collapse becomes official

“Moderate” rebel groups opposed to Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad have once again said that they will not negotiate on a “political solution” unless al-Assad is to be removed from power. They made this official on Tuesday by pulling out of the Geneva peace talks.

There was supposed to have been a cease-fire since February 27, but firing never actually ceased, and now violence is escalating sharply in several regions, especially around Aleppo, which the Syrian army is attempting to recapture from rebels with the help of massive airstrikes.

Before the Russian military intervened last year, Syria’s army was close to defeat for several reasons, but especially because of large numbers of defections and desertions. This situation has not changed, even with al-Assad’s own Alawite sect. ( “4-Apr-16 World View — Syria’s Alawites threaten to abandon Bashar al-Assad”)

Now that much of Russia’s military has withdrawn, there are reports that al-Assad’s army is again losing ground in some regions. Al-Qaeda linked militias, the Islamic Party of Turkestan and Jund al-Aqsa, on Monday captured strategic positions in Syria’s central province of Hama. Vice News and ARA News (Syria)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, Taliban, China, DF-41 Missile, Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ahmet Davutoglu, Syria, Bashar al-Assad, Alawites, Islamic Party of Turkestan, Jund al-Aqsa
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