Friday, May 25, 2007

Military Air Bases at Central Asia

Here is a map with military air bases at Central Asia (Afghanistan, China, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan). Use the right frame to find the bases.

Central Asia has always been a strategic region, due to different factors in different history periods. The main current factors are related with the routes for oil pipelines (from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan), narcotics production which is currently one of the main economic activities (mainly in Afghanistan), the neighboring of emerging and existing powers (China, India, Russia) which join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), regional conflicts (Kashmir, Afghan civil war), and the presence of highly militarized and unstable countries and societies.

In this context, the main actors have been installing military bases, where two of the main actors (USA and Russia) use the bases of other countries (Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Civilians killed by NATO at Afghanistan : the case of Zerkoh Valley (Shindand, Herat)

In the last months, there have been several cases of civilians killed by NATO forces. The incident at the Zerkoh Valley (Shindand, Herat) maybe different from the others.

The Zerkoh Valley is at the Shindand district of Herat, in a strategic route between Herat and Kandahar. Also, in Shindand there is one of the main airbases [Shindand AB]. The valley is populated by Pashtuns, and has been usually peaceful. Follow this link to have the map of the valley.

On April 27 and 29, the US military says it came under heavy fire from insurgents as it searched for a local tribal commander and weapons caches. They called for airstrikes, killing 136 Taliban fighters. The reports focus the fighting in Parmakan and Bakhtabad villages. [BBC News] [Global Security][Global Security][Bassirat].

But, after large local protests, it appeared that American airstrikes left 57 villagers dead, nearly half of them women and children. This was later accepted by several sources [Global Security] [Afghan News] [Bassirat] and generated claims from Karzai [Afghan News].

What happened seems to more complex than a mistake. The report of New York Times explains this. According to NYT (in blue):

"The United States military says it came under heavy fire from insurgents as it searched for a local tribal commander and weapons caches and called in airstrikes, killing 136 Taliban fighters."
"But the villagers denied that any Taliban were in the area. Instead, they said, they rose up and fought the Americans themselves, after the soldiers raided several houses, arrested two men and shot dead two old men on a village road."

"After burying the dead, the tribe’s elders met with their chief, Hajji Arbab Daulat Khan, and resolved to fight American forces if they returned. “If they come again, we will stand against them, and we will raise the whole area against them,” he warned. Or in the words of one foreign official in Afghanistan, the Americans went after one guerrilla commander and created a hundred more. "

The relationships between NATO forces and valley people were peaceful, even friendly. In Parmakan, some days before, was inaugurated a school with the support of ISAF, led by Italian forces [ISAF] [Frontline] , which was later damaged by the bombings.

"Villagers said the first fighting broke out on April 27, as they had gathered at the bazaar in the central village of Parmakan. Two old men, Adel Shah, 80, who was walking home with some meat and sugar for his family, and Sarwar, 80, who was harvesting poppies, were shot dead by the Americans, said Abdul Zaher, Mr. Shah’s son."
"That night, the first airstrikes were carried out, mainly on Bakhtabad, the village at the entrance to the valley, residents said. On April 29, the Americans returned, positioning their armored vehicles outside Parmakan."

"The bombing of the village so outraged people that they continued fighting the Americans even after the airstrikes. American and Afghan military officials admitted that they had been surprised at the ferocity of the response, and said that at one point American soldiers had been forced to call in the Afghan Army."

"The airstrikes damaged about 100 homes and a new school built by Italian troops."

The incidents lead to concerned analysis in NATO [Global Security]. It may be the first time (at least known) in which non militants clash with NATO and afghan forces.

Fighting at Nahr al-Bared refugee camp (Lebanon)

Lebanese troops and militants of Fatah Islam have been fighting for a second day at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp (North Lebanon). Follow this link to place the Nahr al-Bared camp in google maps, or read this google earth community message.

According to Yahoo news:
- "Lebanese troops pounded a Palestinian refugee camp with artillery and tank fire for a second day Monday, raising huge columns of smoke as they battled a militant group suspected of ties to al-Qaida in the worst violence since the end of the 1975-90 civil war."
- "Nearly 50 combatants were killed in the first day of fighting Sunday, but it was not known how many civilians have been killed inside the Nahr el-Bared camp on the outskirts of the northern port city of Tripoli."

According to Aljazeera,
- "Fighting between the Lebanese army and an armed Palestinian group at a refugee camp in northern Lebanon is escalating, despite appeals for a truce to allow humanitarian missions into the camp."
- Abu Salim, a spokesman for Fatah al-Islam, issued an ultimatum to the military on Monday, saying the group would take its battle "outside" the camp if the military did not back down.

According to,
- "In what observers say is the worst fighting to hit Tripoli in two decades, army tanks opened fire on positions inside Nahr al-Bared camp held by militants from Fatah Islam, a Sunni al-Qaeda-styled group. ".
- "Sunday's violence began shortly after dawn when police raided a militant-occupied apartment on a major thoroughfare in Tripoli. Authorities said police were looking for suspects of a bank robbery a day earlier in Amyoun, a town southeast of Tripoli. Local media reported the gunmen to be members of Fatah Islam. The armed militants resisted arrest and a gun battle ensued. It spread to surrounding streets and continued through the afternoon."
- "After suffering its heaviest losses in many years, security analysts predict the Lebanese army may increase its military presence around all Palestinian refugee camps, home to over half of Lebanon's more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees, further limiting public access and damaging an already fragile economic and social environment."
- "Abu Saleem Taha, spokesman for Fatah Islam, told IRIN from inside the camp that militants from the group had attacked the army in retaliation for an incident the previous day in which he claimed Lebanese soldiers had opened fire on Fatah Islam members as they entered the camp. The army was not immediately available for comment on the allegation. "God is testing us and we will serve his cause," said Taha. "We are ready to continue our fight against the Lebanese army and we know that our brothers in the other camps will not stand still if the situation continues."

Read more here:
- Yahoo news. Lebanese army shells refugee camp.
- GlobalSecurity. LEBANON: Palestinians face siege after 11 Lebanese soldiers killed.
- BBC News. Fighting rages in Lebanese camp.
- Fresh clashes in northern Lebanon. BBC News.
- Clashes intensify at Lebanon camp. Aljazeera.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Welcome ! to Events, people & geopolitics in conflicting places

I finally decided to publish this blog. It is not as tidy as I wanted, but I hope it will be useful to share information about these topics.

The blog intends to summarize geopolitics information (rather than stating or supporting specific opinions). Then, you will find here very heterogeneous reports and sources. I also plan to geo-reference the information, and to provide a “who is who” section.

I am beginning with posts related with Afghanistan and Central Asia. This will be one of the main topics.

Clashes between Afghan and Pakistani armies

In the last weeks there have been clashes between Afghan and Pakistani armed forces at the Durand Line, an important segment of the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Clashes began the 19th April when Afghan troops tore down a new anti-Taliban fence erected by Pakistani soldiers on the border between the two countries. The fight place is at the border: at Shkin (Afghanistan, Paktika Province) and Angoor Adda (Pakistan’s FATA). The position is stated in this google earth community post : Pakistani-Afghan troops clash (20Apr07) , or follow this link to google maps.

The conflict is analyzed in this article: "South Asia: Border Clashes Reveal Rifts Between Pakistan, Afghanistan", May 14, 2007 (RFE/RL). The correspondent Ron Synovitz spokes about the conflict with Rahul Bedi.

Some references to the recent clashes are:

Some articles related with the April clashes are:
The image shows a Pakistani soldier installing the fence (from BBC News).