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Worried for the safety of civilians in Libya’s Ganfouda, UN envoy calls for a safe passage to allow evacuations
Expressing deep concern that civilians remain in Ganfouda area of the Libyan city, Benghazi, despite a unilateral ceasefire announced by the Libyan National Army, the United Nations envoy for the country called on the parties to provide another safe passage to allow for the evacuation of all civilians who wish to leave in a secure and dignified manner.
Gambia: UN Security Council calls on outgoing President to ‘respect’ peoples’ choice and to carry out a peaceful transition
Strongly condemning the outgoing Gambian President's rejection of the official election results proclaimed by the country's Independent Electoral Commission, the United Nations Security Council urged him to carry out a peaceful and orderly transition process.
More U.S. troops to Syria - a showdown with the Turks?
|Alleged US special operations forces in Syria|
On December 10, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced the deployment of an additional 200 American troops to support the impending attack on the self-proclaimed Islamic State capital city of al-Raqqah. The additional troops will bring the declared American troop level in Syria to 500. Their mission will remain the same, per Secretary Carter, to “recruit, organize, train and advise local Syrian Arab and Kurdish forces to fight” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The “local Syrian Arab and Kurdish forces” Carter references are the Syrian Democratic Front (SDF). This group presents itself as Arab-Kurdish cooperation, and is an attempt to put to present a less-threatening image of Kurdish participation in the fight against ISIS.
Why is that necessary? The Turks are alarmed of even the merest hint of Kurdish nationalism or autonomy in either Syria or Iraq, believing any such movement will spill over into southern Turkey. That said, the Kurds comprise the bulk of the SDF and constitute the most effective force facing ISIS.
This announcement will not please the Turks, and not only for the reasons above. The Turks are supporting a Free Syrian Army (FSA) assault in northern Syrian called Operation Euphrates Shield (dara’ al-furat) with air, armor, artillery and special operations forces. The operation - in conjunction with Kurdish-controlled areas on the border - has been successful in almost totally closing the Turkish frontier to ISIS, hurting the group’s ability to bring in new recruits and supplies from Turkey.
The Turkish-supported FSA forces are making good progress, pushing southeast towards al-Raqqah. In the last few days, they have reached the ISIS-held city of al-Bab. But Al-Bab is still almost 100 miles from al-Raqqah - it will take weeks, possibly months for the FSA to reach and mount an attack on al-Raqqah. In contrast, the U.S.-backed SDF forces are within 25 miles of the ISIS capital.
It is Turkey’s stated policy that al-Raqqah should be liberated by the FSA (with their support). They claim that to the residents of al-Raqqah, the SDF will be regarded as a Kurdish force despite the “SDF” designation and minor Arab participation. In essence, according to the FSA and Turks, they people will be trading one oppressor for another.
Although I have no direct evidence to refute this, my reading of what little uncensored information leaking out of al-Raqqah seems to indicate that the people of al-Raqqah are totally terrified by ISIS and would welcome any relief, hoping that even a Kurdish liberating force would be better than ISIS and at some point life would return to normal under a Syrian (read: Arab) government.
It appears from Secretary Carter’s announcement that the United States will increase its support to the SDF, that we won’t wait for the Turkish-supported FSA to reach al-Raqqah and possibly urge the SDF to move on the city in the near future.
In October, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve said there are threats to the United States in planning in al-Raqqah and that time is of the essence.
I wrote at the time, “The timing, according to U.S. Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, is being driven by planning and potential execution of terror attacks against Western targets emanating from the ISIS “capital” and main operations center. The general did not name a specific threat or target.” (For the complete article, see The coming assault on al-Raqqah - a political minefield.)
If General Townsend is correct and the timeline to mount an assault on al-Raqqah is short, these additional American forces will be welcome. Although 200 troops - even the final number of 500 troops in Syria - does not sound like a lot, they bring special capabilities to the effort. Rather than being direct action forces, although they have conducted such missions, they are true “force multipliers,” leveraging American air power, intelligence and logistics in support of the very effective Kurdish-dominant SDF.
The problem with a decision to move ahead of the arrival of the Turkish-backed FSA Euphrates Shield force is that it will alienate Turkey, a NATO ally. However, if there is a major threat to Western targets, waiting for the FSA to reach al-Raqqah is not an option.
The Turks will have to understand that this is not about them, or the Kurds - it is about our own security.
Libya: UN envoy welcomes temporary cessation of hostilities for civilian evacuation in Ganfouda
Welcoming the announcement of a temporary cessation of hostilities by the Libyan National Army in the Ganfouda area, in the Libyan city of Benghazi, to allow evacuation of civilians, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Libya called on the parties to the conflict to ensure that civilians are protected.
Ghana: Congratulating new President, UN chief thanks outgoing leader for preserving peace during polls
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has congratulated the Nana Akufo-Addo on his election as President of Ghana and thanked outgoing President John Dramani Mahama for his role in defusing tensions and preserving peace during the election period.
UN relief wing allocates $58 million for life-saving assistance in war-torn Yemen
Amid soaring malnutrition and collapsing basic services in Yemen, a staggering 18.8 million people need humanitarian assistance, the United Nations relief wing has reported as it allocated $58 million through the Humanitarian Pooled Fund to bolster life-saving activities across the crisis-gripped country.
Greece: UN agency cites struggle to provide shelter for asylum-seekers as winter arrives
As winter closes in on Greece, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today that improving living conditions for asylum-seekers and migrants is the ânumber one priorityâ for humanitarian actors in the country and urged the European Union to speed up its relocation efforts.
UN interagency operation provides vital aid to 42,000 people in eastern Mosul
Joint efforts by three United Nations agencies â the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Childrenâs Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) â saw over 42,000 people in eastern Mosul receive food, dignity kits, water purification tablets, jerry cans, and baby hygiene kits yesterday, marking the largest humanitarian aid delivery since the beginning of the current conflict.
Global Privacy Counsel
The right to be forgotten can sometimes seem complex, and discussions about jurisdiction online certainly are complicated. But should the balance between the right to free expression and the right to privacy be struck by each country - based on its culture, its traditions, its courts - or should one view apply globally?
âOutragedâ UN Member States demand immediate halt to attacks against civilians in Syria
Expressing âoutrageâ at the escalation of violence in Syria, particularly war-battered Aleppo, the General Assembly â the universal body comprising all 193 United Nations Members States â today adopted a resolution demanding an immediate and complete end to all attacks on civilians as well as an end to all sieges in war-ravaged country.