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The Trump administration was a bit two-faced this week when it came to its plans for America’s longest war. The push towards a peace deal with the Taliban continues, but we got mixed signals in terms of troop withdrawal. Trump started the week by declaring he wished to reduce American ground troops by 2020. This was countermanded by Secretary of State Pompeo, ““They got it wrong…The president has been very direct about his expectations that we will reduce our operational footprint on the ground in Afghanistan just as quickly as we can get there”.. Initial discussions between the Taliban and (negotiator) continued, resulting in a “initial draw-down” estimate of 5,000 troops. We’ll see…
Sudan continues to become more important in the overall geopolitical landscape of the Middle East and east Africa. With the military junta in power, even with a symbolic deal to hand power over to a civilian government in a year or two (decades more likely), regional powers are quickly putting the military rulers there to work. The UAE is using Sudan as a “transportation hub” for fighters in Yemen & Libya. Sudanese fighters are already involved in the conflict in Libya themselves. Up to 1,000 are fighting for Haftar at the moment.
North Korea spent this week firing off non-threatening missiles into the Sea of Japan. Surprisingly, the US didn’t seem to mind. President Trump called them no big deal. Even John Bolton said that the missiles didn’t violate any handshake agreement between the North and the US. Weird I know. This might be sign that diplomacy is taking place on some level.
Not much news coming from Iran this week. Another tanker taken looks to be the story heading into the new week. Trump definitely annoyed the hawks though. He declared that he would be renewing waivers to his sanctions on the Islamic Republic for all five of the P5+1 group so they can continue to work with the Iranian on their civilian nuclear program.
A conditional ceasefire with the rebels held up in Idlib is a step in the right direction here. In my video I break down the complexity of the situation in Syria and all the parties still on the chessboard.
A Bad Week for Al Qeada
An announcement came down that the son of Osama Bin Laden, Hamza bin Laden that was being groomed for leadership is dead. Sources say he may have been “killed within the last two years”. News travels slow from within a cave or basement in Pakistan. More positive developments out of Pakistan that Ayman al-Zawahiri is sick with a serious heart condition. Let’s hope the “Butcher of New York City” has a long slow road to Hell.
You can find the audio version of the episode here and on ITunes, and as always the video is available: