by Matt Nizich

Afghanistan

Trump White House weighs unprecedented plan to privatize much of the war in Afghanistan
August 8, 2017
The White House is considering a proposal to turn over “a large chunk” or US military operations in Afghanistan to private contractors. The proposal includes 5,500 private contractors and a 90 plane private air force, and is being spearheaded by the former head of Blackwater, Erik Prince. Prince has said that the plan would cost approximately $10 billion – a drastic reduction from the $40 billion budgeted by the Pentagon.

Trump, frustrated by Afghan war, suggests firing US commander
August 2, 2017
President Trump has reportedly told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford that they should consider firing Army General John Nicholson, due to the lack of a strategy and the US “not winning” the war in Afghanistan. President Trump is skeptical of sending more troops abroad, and is demanding a portion of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth in return for US assistance.

U.S. says 4 wounded in Afghan attack that killed 2 US troops
August 3, 2017
Four American troops were wounded in the same suicide bombing near the city of Kandahar that had killed two US soldiers. In the attack, a suicide bomber rammed his car filled with explosives into a NATO convoy. The Taliban took responsibility for the attack.

Iran gains ground in Afghanistan as U.S. military presence wanes
August 6, 2017
Due to the vacuum created by the US decreasing their influence in the area – Iran has begun covertly aiding the Taliban in hopes of keeping Afghanistan destabilized, and promoting the creation of a government more aligned with Iranian interests. According to reports – as the NATO mission in Afghanistan expanded, the Iranians “quietly began supporting the Taliban to bleed the Americans and their allies by raising the cost of the intervention so that they would leave”.

Iraq

Shiite Militia Blames U.S. for Attack That Killed Dozens on the Syria-Iraq Border
August 8, 2017
The U.S led coalition is being accused of the killing of more than 40 militia fighters in an artillery attack near the al-Tanf border. There are however, conflicting reports – with the US denying that any attacks took place in the area, and ISIS having claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed 69 people in the same area. The US has faced heavy backlash in recent months due to the carelessness of their bombing strikes near civilians.

Russia, Not the U.S., is Now Calling the Shots in the Middle East With Iran and Iraq
August 3, 2017
Due to the U.S retreating on efforts to affect a regime change, cutting ties with their CIUA-led support of rebels, and the resistance they are facing in regards to occupying Iraq, Russia is becoming an increasingly powerful player in the region. Russia has become closer allies with Iran due to mutual support for Assad, and has even met with the Iraq Defense Minister to discuss greater cooperation. If trends continue, the US may lose the leverage it has with Iraq and Iran in favor of Russia.

Syria

Is the Expanding U.S. Military Presence in Syria Legal?
August 4, 2017
The U.S is quickly running out of legal justification for its actions in Syria – especially as they come more and more in contact with Syrian forces. Due to their being no self-defense justification and no UN Security Council Resolution, the U.S is facing pressure to clearly state its objectives in the area before being told they are no longer legally able to be in Syria.

US Should Get Out of Syria, Former American Officials Say
August 8, 2017
Former U.S officials have urged the current administration to pull forces out of Syria, citing that “we are on the brink of war with Russia”. The lack of a legal case for being in the region, the increasingly growing odds of state vs state hostilities once the ISIS threat has been reduced, and the potential for real conflict with Russia are all legitimate reasons to bring all sides, including Assad, to the table to discuss ending the war.

First on CNN: Russia & Syrian regime seeking to poach US-backed fighters
August 3, 2017
The Russian-Syrian coalition is attempting to entice US-backed rebels in Southern Syria to switch sides. One official said the recruitment campaign, which appears to have had very limited, if any, success to date, is aimed at mid-level commanders of the groups being trained and equipped by the US-led coalition. He added the regime’s recruitment effort was assessed to have two objectives, building a force of local fighters and driving the coalition out of key real-estate in southern Syria.

U.S. Is Working With Russia to Prevent a New War In Syria, Tillerson Says
August 1, 2017
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has highlighted the importance of working alongside all sides in Syria to prevent the coming conflict that will emerge once ISIS is removed from the region, due to the current hostilities between the Kurds, Russia backed Syrian forces, rebels and Iran. Tillerson has suggested that the best way forward is to come together with all regional players and solve the issue diplomatically.