Conflict update, November 16


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

Jet fighters and helicopters bombing east Aleppo hit a children’s hospital and a blood bank on Wednesday, as medics and patients sheltered in the basement waiting for the hours-long assault to end.

An ambulance driver and at least two children were among at least 20 civilians reportedly killed after a night of fierce attacks on rebel-held sections of Syria’s largest city. Another 47 people were reportedly injured.

If you’re anything like me, your reaction to this news was to wonder how it’s possible that Bashar al-Assad hasn’t already destroyed all the hospitals in eastern Aleppo. I mean are his people, like, going in and building new hospitals so that they can bomb them later on or what? But it turns out that this hospital is actually a repeat winner of the barrel bombing sweepstakes.

All told, an estimated 87 people were killed by Syrian ordinance in eastern Aleppo today, four of them children. Russia, in case you were concerned, says it’s not currently participating in the Aleppo operation and has instead concentrated its fire on rebel positions in Idlib and Homs.

Not to make everything about American politics, but I keep hearing people (not pundits or whatever, just people I talk with) speculate that Donald Trump may find a surprisingly hostile reception in a Republican Congress that, frankly, would probably just as soon impeach him and crown a President Pence. The idea would be to make life so hard for Donald that he decides he’d rather go back to harassing women at Mar-A-Lago or wherever. I think that’s impossibly silly; Republicans who participated in Donald Trump’s impeachment would be destroying their own political careers in the Trump-owned Republican Party, so there’s really only but so much pressure they could possibly apply. But I will say this: if there is a genuine policy disagreement that could escalate into a full-on war between Trump and Congressional Republicans, it will come if/when Trump rolls over for Vladimir Putin on Syria. That might get pretty nasty.


Popular Mobilization forces (PMU) have reportedly captured the Tal Afar airport. This is a positive development in that it gives Iraqi forces a staging area to the west of Mosul if they’re looking to interfere with ISIS’s movement between Mosul and the Syrian border. It’s also kind of a negative development, in that it means the PMU are close to Tal Afar, and therefore close to maybe igniting a whole new conflict between Iraq and Turkey. Baghdad now says that any force that enters Tal Afar proper will “reflect its religious and ethnic make-up,” according to Reuters. Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurds are suggesting they should maybe hang on to all those villages east of Mosul that they’ve liberated during the Mosul operation, which may put them on a collision course with Baghdad as well. Meanwhile, reports of Mosul refugees say that life under ISIS has become more brutal as Iraqi forces have closed in and the group’s senior leadership has fled:

“The elders escaped. They took their families and their money and left,” said Jebril Shehada Abdullah, 28, a former police officer, who speculated that the older fighters had left for Syria or Turkey. “They left only the young guys. They were all locals who were deceived.”

That was hardly a positive development: The younger militants were little more than poorly educated, radicalized thugs intoxicated with power. They roared around east Mosul neighborhoods on motorcycles, threatening and terrorizing civilians.

“The people just stayed inside their houses. If you opened your door they would shoot you,” Abdullah said.

It’s probably best not to think about what Iraqi forces will find when ISIS has finally been driven out of the city.


Over the past couple of days, fighting in Benghazi has killed 20 members of Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army. Haftar has been trying to clear Benghazi of extremist militants for a couple of years now, and clearly there’s more work still to be done.


ISIS-Khorasan is claiming responsibility for a suicide attack in Kabul today that killed six people at last count.



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