From Syria to Afghanistan, the Pentagon Kills Civilians, Sabotages a Ceasefire, Attacks Allies, and Arms Al Qaeda Militants
September 21, 2016
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Thomas Gibbons-Neff / The Washington Post
The US bears major responsibility for sabotaging the Syrian ceasefire, with the Syrian military announcing it would be renewing military strikes. This was seen as all but inevitable after a botched US airstrike killed 83 Syrian soldiers. Meanwhile, former CIA officers have revealed that the agency is knowingly providing weapons to Al Qaeda fighters inside Syria and a bungled US air strike in Uruzgan Province killed eight Afghanistan police officers.
Syria Ceasefire Collapses in Wake of Weekend US Airstrikes
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 19, 2016) -- The Syrian ceasefire formally ended today, with the Syrian military announcing it was no longer sustainable amid growing rebel strikes. This was seen as all but inevitable since Saturday, when a botched US airstrike killed 83 Syrian soldiers and allowed ISIS to advance into crucial area around the Deir Ezzor Airport.
The ceasefire was already fraying, and the US airstrike effectively obliged Syria and Russia to launch renewed airstrikes against ISIS in the area around Deir Ezzor, if only to try to reclaim some of the territory the US strike cost them around the vital airport.
The truce began last Monday evening, and was a rousing success for the first few days, with no civilian deaths for several days, giving the country a rare period of calm after several years of war. There were some skirmishes reported later in the week, however, and then the US strike, by far the deadliest incident of the week, set off a powderkeg.
US officials are still trying to deal with the narrative surrounding the calamitous attacks, with Australian, British, and Danish warplanes now believed to have participated in some 20 minutes of strikes against the Syrian military base.
US officials are also speculating that the soldiers killed might have also been a battalion of former prisoners, saying that might've explained why they "looked like ISIS" to US officials. This is not confirmed, and appears to just be random US comments.
Either way, the attacks dramatically weakened Syrian defenses in the area, and ISIS was quick to take advantage. It also sparked a new row between the US and Russia, as US officials responded to Russia's call for an emergency UN Security Council meeting with angry condemnation.
The US had sought to avoid UN Security Council oversight of the truce in the first place, with the council forced to cancel a previously planned meeting on the ceasefire because the US refused to allow the terms of the deal to be publicly discussed. Much of the truce was a secret for its entire duration. They accused Russia of trying to "score points" by complaining about the airstrikes.
It's hard to see that another ceasefire would be attempted any time soon, with Russia still irked by the way this one ended, and US officials seem eager to shift focus back toward complaining about the Syrian government.
CIA-Armed 'Moderates' in Syria Included al-Qaeda's Nusra Front
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 19, 2016) -- A new report citing former CIA officers has revealed that the agency was knowingly providing weapons, including tow missiles to fighters that were effectively part of al-Qaeda's Nusra Front, continuing to arm "moderates" so long as they at least nominally kept their moderate names.
The report reveals that the vetting process amounted to little more than checking the names of fighters they were given against outdated terrorist databases, and that often they didn't even have real names to check in the first place. It was in this way that the "moderate" Free Syrian Army (FSA) started getting arms in the first place.
But as the war continued, the FSA fighters were defecting en masse to the Nusra Front. Even being directly affiliated with al-Qaeda's affiliate didn't stop the arms flow to these groups, either, so long as they retained their FSA name so the CIA could feign arming "moderates."
The report concludes that the FSA was quickly becoming a cover name for Nusra, a fact which apparently didn't phase the CIA, which was just as eager to use this pretense, so long as they were arming a group that was fighting against the Syrian government.
This has been a long-standing issue with the CIA's operations in Syria, as they were entirely Assad-centric, and dismissive of fighting against ISIS. It quickly put them at cross-purposes with the Pentagon, whose own operations were focused on ISIS, and oftentimes saw the CIA undermining their efforts.
This new understanding of the FSA also explains Friday's fiasco, in which US special forces were chased out of the Syrian town of al-Rai by US-backed and Turkey-backed FSA fighters threatening to "slaughter" them as infidels.
Turkey has long been seen as cozy with Nusra anyhow, and likely didn't care about the connections, while the FSA fighters, who were fine taking weapons from the CIA, rightly saw the US troops as a different force entirely, and one with a significantly different agenda.
US Kills at Least Eight Afghan Police in Bungled Airstrike
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 19, 2016) -- Afghan officials are reporting that the battle over the Uruzgan Province capital of Tarin Kot isn't going so great, and the US warplanes that are supposed to be helping them fend off the offensive apparently aren't doing so hot either, with officials confirming at least eight Afghan police killed in a bungled US airstrike.
The Taliban was in the process of attacking a police post when an airstrike was called in, but instead of hitting the Taliban, US planes attacked the police post repeatedly. Officials say the first strike killed a single policeman, and that seven more arrived after the base was hit the first time and were slain in a subsequent airstrike.
NATO confirmed the attack but denied having any information on who they'd actually killed. They did, however, appear dismissive of the report that they were police, confirming two strikes and insisting that the people they were targeting were "a threat" to Afghan forces.
The Taliban has been advancing against Uruzgan's capital for weeks now, and Afghan officials say 38 police posts were overrun in the last 2 days. This is one of several major Taliban offensives ongoing at present, with other pushes in the Helmand and Kunduz Provinces.
Airstrikes Around Syria's Aleppo
Kill at Least 32, Destroy Aid Trucks
Who Is Responsible Remains Unknown
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 19, 2016) -- With the weeklong Syrian ceasefire collapsing earlier today, airstrikes were reported in and around the northern city of Aleppo, with at least 32 people, apparently all civilians, reported slain according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The biggest single incident was in the town of Urm al-Kabra, just outside of Aleppo, where a Syrian Red Crescent aid convoy headed into the Nusra Front-held half of Aleppo was attacked. 20 of the vehicles were destroyed, and at least 14 aid workers reported killed.
UN officials expressed outrage at the strike, noting it had taken them the entire week-long ceasefire just to get everyone to give them permission to come into Aleppo, and it ended up attacked anyhow.
Getting permission from every faction to deliver the aid was a huge complication, with the Syrian government among the first to agree to the shipment, but conditioning it on not involving Turkish officials.
The Syrian military is believed to have carried out the airstrikes, though as of yet this is not confirmed, and the Syrian military has not commented on the attack. The military had cited rebel attacks in and around Aleppo throughout the weekend as part of their decision to withdraw from the ceasefire, however.
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