“The Evolutionary Russian View of Peacekeeping as Part of Modern Warfare” by Matthew Stein (July 2022)

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The 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War stood out as a significant chapter in the history of the conflict in the region. Not only did Azerbaijan take control over a large amount of territory, the Russian government deployed peacekeepers as part of the cease-fire agreement between the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan. This marked the first time a peacekeeping force became involved in the conflict over the region and stood as another example of how Russia utilized a peacekeeping operation as a response to a conflict in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The CIS is made up of states of the former Soviet Union and is an area where the Russian government has special relationships and a sphere of influence. While the United States has arguably pulled back from peacekeeping operations in recent years and, as a result, the U.S. military has deemphasized them, Russia views peacekeeping operations as a key part of modern warfare. Like other military operations, Russians consider that peacekeeping operations can be utilized to achieve strategic objectives beyond conflict resolution. This article examines how Russia views peacekeeping operations as a part of warfare, including in its military doctrine and based on past conflicts in the CIS. It also examines how this applies to the most recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and in the peacekeeping operation as a response to civil unrest in Kazakhstan. Insights from this may also inform potential outcomes of the current war in Ukraine.

Venezuela’s Mystery Plane Shows Iran’s Strategic Penetration of Latin America

A Venezuelan plane from the state-owned airline Conviasa at Simón Bolivar Airport in Caracas.

A Venezuelan plane from the state-owned airline Conviasa at Simón Bolivar Airport in Caracas.

“Argentina’s Justice Ministry is trying to establish why Iranians came among the crew of the Venezuelan airline that was officially supposed to transport auto parts from Mexico to Argentina, and to see if there are elements that support the hypothesis that the Iranian pilot is indeed linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.”

On 8 June, a large Boeing 747 of suspicious origin was grounded in Buenos Aires, where Argentine authorities seized the crew’s passports.  The plane belongs to Venezuela’s state-owned Emtrasur Cargo airline, a subsidiary of Conviasa, which Iran’s sanctioned Mahan Air sold to Venezuela one year ago.  The mystery surrounding the cargo plane hints at Iran’s strategic penetration of Latin America through a mix of commercial and military activities.  According to one of Argentina’s leading media outlets Infobae, the aircraft stopped in Mexico to load auto parts, then made several trips throughout South America, including Venezuela, Paraguay, and eventually Argentina before authorities grounded it.  Cordoba’s leading newspaper, Diario Cordoba, posits that the passenger manifest, which was exceptionally large, holds clues as to the plane’s true purpose.  The paperwork shows that the pilot of the plane was a known member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Qud’s Force, Captain Gholamreza Ghasemi.  Further, speculation is rife that at least one passenger departed the plane before it arrived in Argentina, when the plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Cordoba after bad weather in Buenos Aires caused it to avert its landing there. If Iran is ferrying security operatives and sanctioned individuals from its elite security forces to Latin America by cargo and civilian airliners, posing as either passengers or crew members, this represents a grave security threat. In 1992 and 1994, Argentina suffered devastating terrorist attacks on a Jewish community center and the Israeli Embassy. In Argentina, it has been suspected for years that Iran and Hezbollah have a connection to these attacks.


“El avión con tripulantes iraníes encendió las alarmas de toda la región hace cuatro semanas (The plane with Iranian crew set off alarms throughout the region four weeks ago),” Diario Cordoba (Cordoba’s leading daily newspaper), 14 June 2022.  https://titulares.ar/el-avion-con-tripulantes-iranies-encendio-las-alarmas-de-toda-la-region-hace-cuatro-semanas/ 

The international alarms over the flights of a plane manned by Iranians and Venezuelans in the Southern Cone began to ignite four weeks ago throughout the region…[Argentina] received a notice that it is a company and therefore an aircraft that was sanctioned by the United States Department of the Treasury and that its crew members were members of the Al-Quds Force, the revolutionary force of Iran, whom the United States has been on a terrorism list.

Source:  “EMTRASUR: la empresa fantasma venezolana que vuela con un solo avión bajo la sombra iraní (EMTRASUR: the Venezuelan ghost company that flies with a single plane under the Iranian shadow),” Infobae (one of Argentina’s leading outlets, generally viewed as center-left politically), 19 June 2022.  https://www.infobae.com/politica/2022/06/19/emtrasur-la-empresa-fantasma-venezolana-que-vuela-con-un-solo-avion-bajo-la-sombra-irani/ 

Paraguayan Intelligence Minister Esteban Aquino assured this Friday that Gholamreza Ghasemi, the pilot of the plane held in Buenos Aires, has ties to the Quds Force.  Argentina’s Justice Ministry is trying to establish why Iranians came among the crew of the Venezuelan airline that was officially supposed to transport auto parts from Mexico to Argentina, and to see if there are elements that support the hypothesis that the Iranian pilot is indeed linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

Image Information:

Image: A Venezuelan plane from the state-owned airline Conviasa at Simón Bolivar Airport in Caracas.
Source: Wilfredor via Wikimedia https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Conviasa_plane_in_Maiquetia_Airport.jpg
Attribution:  Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Regional Coalitions Supersede the AU’s African Standby Force

Should the African Standby Force become fully operational, soldiers such as these from Burundi would play a key role in peacekeeping for the organization.

Should the African Standby Force become fully operational, soldiers such as these from Burundi would play a key role in peacekeeping for the organization.

“The ASF has never seen action, with ad hoc troop coalitions instead becoming the norm in Africa.”

It has been nearly two decades since the African Union (AU) created the African Standby Force (ASF), a proposed multinational and multidisciplinary peacekeeping military organization.  However, despite numerous conflicts across the continent, the ASF has yet to respond.  Instead, as the accompanying excerpted article from South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies explains, various African regions have created their own ad hoc coalitions of troops to deal with security issues in their associated territories.  For example, seven East African Community countries established a regional military force in April 2022 that helped restore stability in parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where militia groups were conducting violent attacks.  Likewise, in 2021 Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community sent forces to northern Mozambique to fight Islamic militants.

These regional coalitions of militaries have not followed the ASF’s concepts regarding how and when forces should be deployed and have called into question the ASF’s relevance.  The coalitions believe they are doing the work the ASF was designed to do but has not done.  According to the article, there are several reasons why the ASF has failed to launch.  First, there have been numerous political problems in addition to security concerns between African nations.  There have also been difficulties between the AU and the five regional economic blocs that are supposed to coordinate the ASF.  Some African countries have been slow to commit necessary resources to the ASF.  However, as the article notes, the ASFs biggest problem is that violent extremism was not originally addressed in the organization’s framework, forcing regional coalitions to fill this gap.

Efforts are underway to resolve some of the issues constraining the ASF.  These include forming mechanisms to improve decision-making, facilitating a better understanding of when to deploy the ASF, and expediting the formation of an ASF counterterrorism unit.  While these may sound promising, this is not the first time that the ASF has seen such attempts.  This inability of the AU to have a large, ready, and unified force means Western powers seeking to support peacekeeping operations must deal with several different regional forces instead of one.  Meanwhile, with regional coalitions providing forces to deal with their regional problems, the pressure is off a bit for the AU to stand up the ASF quickly.  However, the inability of the AU to do so reflects the many difficulties it faces trying to unite Africa even in the face of conflicts and terrorism. 


Meressa K. Dessu and Dawit Yohannes, “Can the African Standby Force Match Up to Current Security Threats?” Institute for Security Studies (South African think tank), 2 June 2022. https://issafrica.org/iss-today/can-the-african-standby-force-match-up-to-current-security-threats

The ASF has never seen action, with ad hoc troop coalitions instead becoming the norm in Africa.

The ASF originated in 2003 as a multidisciplinary standby mechanism comprising soldiers, civilians and police in their countries of origin. It is coordinated by the five regional economic communities with the aim of being ready for rapid deployment at short notice. The intention is to help the AU Peace and Security Council discharge its responsibilities relating to peace support missions.

Analysts attribute this problem to the power that regional blocs have over peace and security decisions due to a lack of clarity on the subsidiarity principle between regions and the AU. This ambiguity of roles and responsibilities enables countries to opt for ad hoc security arrangements over the ASF.

Some analysts believe these ad hoc security coalitions complement the ASF and are best suited to tackling Africa’s deadliest transnational armed groups. The coalitions are seen as filling a gap in the AU’s peace and security arsenal by providing immediate responses to violent extremism and other complex threats – which the ASF’s framework doesn’t address.

Image Information:

Image: Should the African Standby Force become fully operational, soldiers such as these from Burundi would play a key role in peacekeeping for the organization.
Source: U.S. Army Africa/Wikimedia Commons/Flickr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Burundi_peacekeepers_prepare_for_next_rotation_to_Somalia,_Bjumbura,_Burundi_012210_%284324781393%29.jpg
Attribution: CC BY 2.0

UAV Technologies Proliferating in Yemen and Saudi Arabia

Wing Loong II side view, Dubai Air Show 2017.

Wing Loong II side view, Dubai Air Show 2017.

“…The plane belonged to the Saudi Air Force and was violating the armistice and carrying out hostile acts in the airspace of the capital, Sana’a…”

Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and counter-UAV technologies appear poised to continue proliferating and evolving in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.  The accompanying articles shed light on their use in this corner of the Arabian Peninsula.  In a span of four days in late May, Yemeni military sources claimed Houthi-led military forces in Yemen used “locally made” surface-to-air missiles to shoot down three UAVs belonging to the Saudi military.  The three UAVs were a Vestel Karayel [RG1] surveillance drone, a CAIG Wing Loong II [RG2] UCAV, and a CASC Rainbow CH-4 [RG3] UCAV.  The claims appear credible, although the only evidence presented were wreckage videos.  Yemeni forces did not specify how the drones were shot down beyond speaking vaguely of domestically manufactured systems.  Yemeni forces possess Russian/Soviet air-to-air missiles that they inherited from the Yemeni military stockpiles and modified to function as surface-to-air missiles.  They also operate Iranian air defense missiles smuggled into Yemen, most notably the “358” loitering air defense missile.  Saudi Arabia is seeking to produce UAVs and other advanced military equipment domestically and has signed co-production agreements with the makers of Turkish Karayels and Chinese CH-4s. 

Saudi Arabia has also recently entered into a joint venture with the China Electronics Technology Group to develop drones and counter-drone systems.  The latest incidents add to a growing list of over two dozen UAVs that Saudi Arabia has lost on the Yemeni battlefield, including over a dozen CH-4s and a handful of Karayels.  According to the accompanying excerpt from the Turkish daily Hurriyet, Saudi Arabia is thought to be in the process of purchasing Turkish Bayraktar TB-2 UAVs, perhaps in response to the underperformance of these other platforms.


@army21ye (Yemeni military spokesman Twitter account), 21 May 2022. https://twitter.com/army21ye/status/1527936740874498049

By God’s grace, this morning our air defenses were able to shoot down an armed spy plane, of the Turkish-made Karayel type, belonging to the Saudi Air Force. The plane was violating the armistice and carrying out hostile missions in the airspace of the Hiran region of Hajjah governorate. It was targeted by a homemade surface-to-air missile, which has not been made public yet.

Source: @army21ye (Yemeni military spokesman Twitter account), 23 May 2022.

Moments ago, our air defenses were able, thanks to God, to shoot down a Chinese-made armed CH4 spy plane using a locally made surface-to-air missile. The plane belonged to the Saudi Air Force and was violating the armistice and carrying out hostile acts in the airspace of the capital, Sana’a.

Source:  @army21ye (Yemeni military spokesman Twitter account), 24 May 2022, https://twitter.com/army21ye/status/1529119242221649922

The armed spy plane shot down by our air defenses at dawn today on the border front was a Chinese-made Wing Loong 2. It was targeted while violating the armistice and carrying out hostile actions in the skies of the Kitaf Directorate, along the border.

Source:  “Saudi Arabia to buy Bayraktar drones: Report,” Hurriyet (Turkish daily), 23 May 2022. https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/saudi-arabia-to-buy-bayraktar-drones-report-174012

“The Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) has expressed interest in Turkish drones and is ready for talks with the producing company, Baykar,” Lebanon-based Tactical Report wrote on May 22.

Image Information:

Image:  Wing Loong II side view, Dubai Air Show 2017.
Source: Photo by Mztourist via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wing_Loong_II_side_view.jpg
Attribution: CC 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)

Algeria Inches Closer to Russia Amid Frosty Relations with Morocco and Spain

Ville de Tindouf مدينة تندوف.

Ville de Tindouf مدينة تندوف.

“…Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that relations between Russia and Algeria are reaching a new level…”

In need of allies and with deteriorating relations with neighbors, Algeria’s relations with Russia are firm and potentially deepening following multiple military-diplomatic visits from Russia.  Russia-Algeria links “are reaching a new level,” according to statements Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently made to the Russian media outlet RT Arabic.  A new strategic cooperation document is being drafted to replace the 2001 agreement that currently guides bilateral relations.  According to the excerpted article from influential Saudi daily al-Sharq al-Awsat, Algeria plans to hold joint military exercises with Russia in November.  In early June, the new director of Algeria’s Advanced Warfighting School led a group of officers on a tour of General Staff colleges in Russia.  Deepening Russian-Algerian relations may reflect an emerging strategic alignment that could turn the western Mediterranean into a new flashpoint in the brewing conflict between Russia and NATO.

This is all against the backdrop of Algeria’s perceived threats from Morocco and Spain.  Both Algeria and Morocco have taken steps to reinforce military presence along their shared border in recent months.  Earlier this year, the Moroccan military established a new “eastern military zone” along its border with Algeria.  More recently, as reported in the Qatari-aligned al-Araby al-Jadid, the Algerian military conducted nighttime joint maneuvers and set up a new base near the oasis town of Tindouf, where the borders of Algeria, Morocco and the disputed Western Sahara converge.  Tindouf is home to the largest concentration of Western Saharan (Sahrawi) refugees, and a key center of gravity for the Polisario Front, Western Sahara’s pro-independence movement. 

In early June, Algeria downgraded its political relations with Spain in response to Spanish recognition of Moroccan claims on the Western Sahara earlier this year.  The Algerian government is threatening a near-total trade embargo with Spain, from which only natural gas exports would be excepted.  It has also threatened to shut off the remaining pipeline that carries Algerian gas to Spain.  Stopping the flow of Algerian gas to Spain would leave Italy as the only European country with pipelines bringing in Algerian natural gas.  Algeria’s diplomatic rupture with Spain also includes suspending cooperation on migration.  Given the Ukraine-related pressures on the EU’s eastern borders, increased immigration and decreased gas flows along Europe’s southern borders would undoubtedly put substantial strain on the European Union’s social and political order.


“لافروف: علاقاتنا مع الجزائر تصل إلى مستوى جديد

(Lavrov: Our relations with Algeria have reached a new level),” RT Arabic (Russian Arabic-language news site), 26 May 2022. https://tinyurl.com/228xnr4b

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that relations between Russia and Algeria are reaching a new level. He also emphasized the need to formalize them in a new document, the preparation of which is underway.


“الجيش الجزائري ينفذ مناورات تحاكي قتالاً ليلياً قرب الحدود مع المغرب

(The Algerian army carries out maneuvers simulating night combat near the border with Morocc”),” al-Araby al-Jadid (Qatari-aligned daily), 7 June 2022. https://tinyurl.com/2cukk683

The Algerian army conduct nighttime military maneuvers with live ammunition. The exercises included various units and weapons, and the intensive use of missiles, rocket launchers and aircraft. They took place in the Tindouf region, which lies directly on the border with Morocco, not far from the disputed Sahara region between Rabat and t“e “Polisario Fro”t,” and coincided with the opening of a military base in the area.


“مسؤول روسي رفيع يبحث بالجزائر التعاون العسكري

(High-level Russian official discusses military cooperation in Algeri”),” al-Sharq al-Awsat (influential Saudi daily), 17 May 2022. https://tinyurl.com/2s3jt5ms

A senior official in the Russian Federation Council held discussion with Algerian officials yesterday regarding the ongoing war in Ukraine, the development of military cooperation between the two countries, and the previously announced joint military exercises, scheduled for next November in the Algerian desert.

Source:“”Students of Algerian Armed Forces Advanced Warfighting School visit Defence Universi”y,” Republic of Serbia Ministry of Defense, 6 June 2022. https://www.mod.gov.rs/eng/18878/poseta-polaznika-visoke-ratne-skole-oruzanih-snaga-alzira-univerzitetu-odbrane-18878

Students attending the Algerian Peo’le’s National Armed Forces Advanced Warfighting School have visited the Defence University in Belgrade today, thus starting their study tour of the Republic of Serbia which will last for several days.

Image Information:

Image:  Ville de Tindouf مدينة تندوف
Source: Photo by Habib kaki via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tindouf_تندوف.jpg
Attribution: CC 1.0., https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en

Azerbaijan Balances Security Cooperation Between Turkey and Russia

Unmanned combat aerial vehicle Akıncı of Bayraktar at Teknofest 2019.

Unmanned combat aerial vehicle Akıncı of Bayraktar at Teknofest 2019.

“Within its framework, it is planned to sign a number of agreements, and also announced the intention to establish the production of Bayraktar-Akinchy heavy drones in Azerbaijan.”

The accompanying excerpted article from the independent Russian-language website Kavkazskiy Uzel provides a regional analysis of how Azerbaijan balances its security cooperation with Turkey and Russia.  It also discusses Azerbaijan’s recent purchase of the Turkish-made Akinci drone.  The article reports on Teknofest being hosted in Azerbaijan, noting that this was the first time the festival took place outside of Turkey.  It points out that Turkey and Azerbaijan signed a number of agreements there.  It also notes the delivery of the Bayraktar Akinci drone to Azerbaijan and that Turkey “will transfer production technologies” to Azerbaijan.  The Akinci has better capabilities than the Bayraktar TB2, which Azerbaijan currently has in its inventory. 

The comments from analysts in the region provide more context for what Azerbaijan is looking for from Russia versus Turkey.  Regional security analyst Shair Ramaldanov notes that security cooperation between Azerbaijan and Russia is mostly for the “repair of military equipment of Soviet and Russian production” and that “spare parts for this are supplied from Russia.”  Political scientist Ilgar Velizade points out one key difference in Azerbaijan’s security cooperation with Turkey and Russia, specifically “in relations with Turkey, Azerbaijan aims at the joint production of new weapons; [whereas] in relations with Russia, Baku buys arms in the Russian Federation.”  Political scientist Arastun Orujlu noted another difference between Turkey and Russia: that “Turkey does not yet produce tanks and military aircraft, so Baku will purchase this equipment from the Russian Federation.  But in the field of high-tech, missile, helicopter weapons, Turkey is ahead of the Russian Federation.” 

Overall, the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan have had various systems serviced by Russia in the past, even if relations between the two had been strained.  While the article does not mention this, the war in Ukraine is having an impact on logistics for the Russian defense industry.  Azerbaijan’s acquisition of the Bayraktar Akinci shows what it continues to look for in its security partnership with Turkey, which gave the country a specific capability that Russia could not.


“Аналитики сравнили военно-техническое сотрудничество Баку с Анкарой и Москвой (Analysts compared military-technical cooperation of Baku with Ankara and Moscow),” Kavkazskiy Uzel (independent Russian-language website with news from the Caucasus), 28 May 2022. https://kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/377597/

Azerbaijan is hosting the Teknofest aviation, cosmonautics and technology festival, which is held outside of Turkey for the first time. Within its framework, it is planned to sign a number of agreements, and also announced the intention to establish the production of Bayraktar-Akinchi heavy drones in Azerbaijan. Military cooperation between Baku and Ankara is unlikely to interfere with cooperation with Moscow, since it is about the supply of various types of weapons, analysts interviewed by the “Kavkazskiy Uzel” noted…

The organizers of the festival are the Turkish Technology Team Foundation (T3), the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Ministry of Industry and Technology of Turkey…Within the framework of the festival, Turkey and Azerbaijan are planning to sign a number of agreements, Turkish Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank told the Anadolu Agency.

The most significant achievement of the festival in Baku is the flight of the new Turkish heavy strike-reconnaissance U“V “Bayraktar-Akin”hi” from Turkey through the airspace of Georgia to Baku without an intermediate landing. The UAV covered 3200 km. This aircraft is much larger, better armed, flies longer and higher, and is capable of carrying more weapons than its predecessor, Bayraktar-TB2, which Azerbaijan used in the 2020 Autumn War…Ankara will transfer production technologies to the Azerbaijani side.

…On February 22, 2022, the Declaration on Allied Cooperation between Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation was signed in Moscow. The document says that the parties are developing bilateral military-political cooperation that meets national interests and is not directed against third countries…They cooperate on issues of equipping with modern weapons and military equipment, as well as in other areas in this area of ​​mutual interest…Military expert Shair Ramaldanov told t“e “Caucasian K”ot” correspondent that the military-technical cooperation between Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation did not stop. It consists, according to him, primarily in the repair of military equipment of Soviet and Russian production and the restoration of weapons damaged during the hostilities. Spare parts for this are supplied from Russia…

…Political scientist Ilgar Velizade told t“e “Caucasian K”ot” correspondent that the Azerbaijani-Turkish and Azerbaijani-Russian military-technical cooperation differs in at least one fundamental poin“. “If in relations with Turkey, Azerbaijan aims at the joint production of new weapons, then in relations with Russia, Baku buys arms in the Russian Federati”n,” he said.

…Political scientist Arastun Orujlu compared the expected arms supplies to Azerbaijan from Turkey and Russi“. “Turkey does not yet produce tanks and military aircraft, so Baku will purchase this equipment from the Russian Federation. But in the field of high-tech, missile, helicopter weapons, Turkey is ahead of the Russian Federation, he told t“e “Caucasian K”ot” correspondent…

Image Information:

Image: Unmanned combat aerial vehicle Akıncı of Bayraktar at Teknofest 2019.
Attribution: CC BY YA 4.0

Central Asian Forces Boosting UAV Capabilities

TAI Anka at Teknofest 2019.

TAI Anka at Teknofest 2019.

“Maintenance and repairs of the UAV will be carried out at a joint venture in Kazakhstan.”

In March 2022, Kyrgyzstan’s Border Guards carried out an exercise with their recently acquired Turkish Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).  Shortly after that, Tajikistan’s defense minister visited Turkey and met with representatives from Baykar, the makers of the Bayraktar TB2 being used in Ukraine with much fanfare.  The meeting triggered speculation that Tajikistan is planning to acquire the Bayraktar TB2, but Tajik officials did not confirm this.  The accompanying excerpted articles report on drone-related developments in Central Asia and provide insight into the role they could play in the region over the next several years.

The excerpted article from independent Tajik news website Asia Plus reports on the establishment of an enterprise in Tajikistan for the production of Iranian Ababil-2 UAVs.  The article provides no additional details about the production capacity of the facility, but notes that the Ababil is used mostly for reconnaissance and that it can be equipped as a loitering munition.  The article also quotes U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan as recently saying that the United States “would provide Puma reconnaissance UAVs to the Tajik border guards.”

The excerpted article from independent news website Fergana Agency reports that a new joint Turkish-Kazakh enterprise will produce Turkish Aerospace Industries’ ANKA UAVs in Kazakhstan.  The article notes how Kazakhstan “will become the first foreign country to establish the production of ANKA attack drones” and that the Kazakh government bought three of the UAVs last year.  The early variants of the ANKA were only for reconnaissance, but recent variants can be equipped with a munition and it appears Kazakhstan will use one of these systems.

Neither article states whether Tajikistan or Kazakhstan will put their jointly produced UAVs into service with their respective ministries or another security force.  The governments of Central Asia have always put a high priority on border security forces and if Kyrgyzstan serves as an example, the border guards of Kazakhstan and Tajikistan could be the recipients of the new UAVs.  Regardless, the announcements of two new UAV production facilities shows how much of a priority governments in the region are putting on UAV capabilities.


“В Таджикистане открылось предприятие по производству иранских беспилотников (An enterprise for the production of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles opened in Tajikistan),” Asia Plus (an independent news website in Tajikistan), 17 May 2022. https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/security/20220517/v-tadzhikistane-otkrilos-iranskoe-predpriyatie-po-proizvodstvu-bespilotnikov

…an enterprise for the production of Iranian Ababil-2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has opened in Tajikistan. Tajik Defense Minister Sherali Mirzo and Chief of the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Mohammad Bokiri attended the opening…

IRNA reports that the enterprise was built “in order to strengthen and expand joint defense and military cooperation between the two countries thanks to the efforts and assistance of specialists from the Ministry of Defense and support of the Iranian Armed Forces.”…Details about the production capacity of the facility were not reported…

The Ababil is designed primarily for reconnaissance missions… The system can also be equipped with up to 40 kg of explosives, turning it into a loitering munition…

Previously, the U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan, John Mark Pommersheim, stated at a press conference that the U.S. would provide Puma reconnaissance UAVs to the Tajik border guards…

Source: “В Казахстане наладят производство турецких беспилотников ANKA (Production of the Turkish unmanned aerial vehicle ANKA is being set up in Kazakhstan),” Fergana Agency (an independent news website focusing on Central Asia), 11 May 2022. https://fergana.agency/news/126095/

The Turkish ANKA unmanned aerial vehicle will be produced in Kazakhstan. This was reported by Andolu Agency, referring to the producer of the drones – Turkish Aerospace Industries (TUSAŞ)…

Maintenance and repairs of the UAV will be carried out at a joint venture in Kazakhstan. Thus, it will become the first foreign country to establish the production of ANKA attack drones…

Last year, a contract was signed with the Kazakh side for the supply of ANKA UAVs to the republic. It was reported that Turkey, under this agreement, sold three systems to Kazakhstan…

Image Information:

Image: TAI Anka at Teknofest 2019.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TAI_Anka_Teknofest2019_(1).jpg
Attribution: CC BY YA 4.0

Turkish Military Operation in Syria Risks Clash with Iran

Turkish Soldiers in Syria.

Turkish Soldiers in Syria.

“Driven apart by clashing regional interests, Turkey and Iran appear headed for a face-off in Syria, with Tehran explicitly opposing Ankara’s plan for a fresh military operation against Kurdish-held areas, wary of risks to its own posture in the region.”

The Turkish Government’s plan to launch a fifth military operation into Syria is back on the table.  The stated goal is to create a 20-mile “safe zone” along Turkey’s border with Syria by targeting areas held by the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).  A Turkish operation into this region and its related repercussions might jeopardize the security of U.S. troops remaining in the region to support and advise the SDF fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  Turkish President Erdoğan announced he intends to start the operation in Tel Rifaat and Manbij and gradually extend to other areas, some of which include Kurdish groups, Iranian-backed militias, Syrian regime forces, and Russian control of the airspace.  The accompanying articles analyze the complexity and risks for Turkey, including that of a face-off with Iran. 

According to the first excerpted article from pro-government Turkish daily Hürriyet, the critical issue for Turkey is access to Syrian airspace, so it will need permission from Russia and the Syrian regime.  Moreover, especially in Manbij, Russia and Syrian regime forces currently control the areas north of the M-4 highway, while Kurdish groups control the area south of the highway.  In any ground operation against Kurdish groups, Turkey would find itself facing Russian and Syrian regime forces first in this area.  Since Turkey is unlikely to risk fighting Russia, it will seek Russian consent first.

The other critical issue is Iranian opposition and the presence of Iran-backed Shia militias in the area.  The second excerpted article from security focused al-Monitor states that Iran will resist Turkey’s operation both militarily and politically, and an operation might lead to a clash between them.  Iran perceives the Turkish military presence in Syria as a threat to its interests and has taken several steps to dissuade Turkey from launching a military operation.  First, Iranian high-level officials publicly warned Turkey not to launch the military operation.  Second, Iran is bolstering its posture by deploying militias to areas with Shiite settlements, including Zahra and Nubl.  Third, Iran and the Syrian regime are mobilizing support for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units that Turkey vowed to clear from the area.  Fourth, Iran-backed Shiite militias tried to deploy Grad missiles to Turkey’s potential area of operations, but Russia stopped them for now.  Iran’s increased presence because of a potential Turkish operation may also impact U.S. forces in the region.


Sedat Ergin, “Tel Rifat ve Münbiç’te Rusya ve İran faktörleri ne? (What are the Russian and Iranian factors in Tel Rifat and Manbij?),” Hürriyet (a pro-government Turkish daily),3 June 2022. https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/yazarlar/sedat-ergin/tel-rifat-ve-munbicte-rusya-ve-iran-faktorleri-ne-olacak-42076420

“We are entering a new phase of our decision to create a 30-kilometer-deep safe zone along our southern borders,” [President Erdoğan] said, adding: “We are clearing Tel Rifat and Manbij from terrorists. Then we will gradually do the same in other regions.”

…if the operation area is to be limited to Tel Rifat and Manbij, we must take into account that Turkey’s primary interlocutor on the ground will be Russia…

But there are other players as well. The importance of Tel Rifaat is that it is a multi-actor geography in which Russia, Iran, the Assad regime, and the YPG/PYD… have military presence…

A very critical issue to consider in a possible operation is that Russia controls Syria’s airspace west of the Euphrates. Its airspace east of the Euphrates is under the control of the USA. If [a Turkish Armed Forces operation] happens, the airspace will have to be kept open so that the radars of the Russian/Syrian air defense systems do not lock onto Turkish warplanes and unmanned aerial vehicles during the operation of the TAF [Turkish Armed Forces]…

Tel Rifaat is also a region where Shiite militia groups, which are directly under the control of Iran, also exist. This means that Turkey should also take into account the Iranian factor in any operation to be carried out in Tel Rifaat.

Source: Fehim Taştekin,“Iran, Turkey brace for face-off in Syria,” al-Monitor (globally read security news site with regionally based reporting), 10 June 2022. https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2022/06/iran-turkey-brace-face-syria

Driven apart by clashing regional interests, Turkey and Iran appear headed for a face-off in Syria, with Tehran explicitly opposing Ankara’s plan for a fresh military operation against Kurdish-held areas, wary of risks to its own posture in the region.

Turkey has failed to get a green light from the United States to press ahead with the plan, while Russia appears to be stalling. The Iranians, meanwhile, have sent militia reinforcements to two Shiite settlements northwest of Aleppo, not far from a key area in Ankara’s crosshairs, while trying to talk Turkey out from making the move — apparently with little success thus far…

The notion of rivalry has become an understatement in defining Turkish-Iranian ties. The rifts between the two neighbors have deepened amid an array of issues concerning Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, coupled with frictions over the sharing of transboundary waters and a seemingly uncontrolled stream of Afghan refugees to Turkey from Iran…

…the Iranian Foreign Ministry slammed Turkey’s intervention plan, warning that it would only exacerbate tensions and humanitarian suffering in Syria.

…Iranian media outlets have described Turkey’s presence as an “invasion” and referred to the Syrian National Army (SNA), Turkey’s rebel allies, as “Turkish-backed terrorists.” They have accused Turkey of pushing demographic changes to the detriment of the Kurds, expanding the space of “terrorists” under the guise of safe zones, seeking gains to use against Damascus in future talks or laying the ground for annexing Syrian territory.

…“The Syrian regime and its Iranian militias have mobilized and [are] sending reinforcement to the YPG” — a reference to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which Ankara has vowed to oust from Tel Rifaat.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, meanwhile, reported that Iranian-backed Shiite militia attempted to deploy Grad missiles to the area May 30, but were stopped by Russian forces…

Could Iran go even further now at the risk of a showdown with Turkey? According to the Iranian journalist, Turkey is “well aware” that Iran will defend Zahra and Nubl, even though Iran has avoided directly confronting Turkey in Syria thus far, except for Iranian participation in a 2020 offensive in Idlib that resulted in Damascus recapturing the crucial M5 highway.

Though Ankara has not mentioned Zahra and Nubl as targets, they would fall within Turkey’s range should it take control of Tel Rifaat. The two settlements and Tel Rifaat are seen as a barrier shielding Aleppo…

Today, Kurdish and government control in Tel Rifaat and its environs prevents rebels in Idlib from crossing to the Turkish-controlled Euphrates Shield pocket and accessing Aleppo. The importance of the area feeds suspicions that Ankara’s aims may go beyond weakening the Kurds. 

According to various sources, local groups trained and equipped by Hezbollah, Iranian-sponsored Shiite groups such as Fatemiyoun, Hashemiyoon and Zainabiyoun and the Syrian government’s militia the National Defense Forces are all present in Zahra and Nubl. They are reportedly coordinated by the IRGC, which has a headquarters in the area.

Image Information:

Image: Turkish Soldiers in Syria.
Source: Voice of America, via Wikimedia,https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:T%C3%BCrk_Askeri_Suriye%27de.jpg
Attribution: CC-PD-Mark | PD VOA

Indonesia Extends Counter-Drug Trafficking Cooperation to South America

National Narcotics Agency (BNN) logo.

National Narcotics Agency (BNN) logo.

“I have just carried out a working visit as Chair of the Indonesian Delegation to several countries in South America in order to anticipate the entry of cocaine and other trafficked narcotics into Indonesia…”

According to the excerpted article from centrist Indonesian-language website tvonenews.com, Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency (BNN) is now cooperating with South American countries to prevent the entry of cocaine and other narcotics into Indonesia.  In the article, BNN head Petrus Golose discusses his recent working visit to South America.  Although he notes that narcotics trafficking in South America has not yet directly affected Indonesia, it is necessary to address because Indonesia has seen an increase in domestic drug use and could become a destination country for illicit South American drugs.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s website, kemlu.co.id, discusses the BNN delegation’s visit to Panama in particular.  Indonesia is concerned about Panama’s role as a drug trafficking hub, albeit not a producer.  Indonesia intends to share best practices with Panama in terms of law enforcement strategies to counter drug trafficking.  A memorandum of understanding between the two countries was signed, marking the first time Panama has ever cooperated with an Asian country to combat drug trafficking.

Indonesian-language media outlet databoks.com reports that there had been a surge in narcotics arrests in Indonesia, peaking in 2018, and decreasing since then.  According to the data, North Sumatra is the most affected region.  Marijuana is the most seized drug followed by methamphetamine and ecstasy.  Given that cocaine dominates narcotics trafficking from South America, these facts indicate that Indonesian counter-narcotics initiatives with South American countries is a longer-term preventative measure.


“BNN Jalin Kerja Sama dengan Negara-Negara di Amerika Selatan Cegah Masuknya Kokain dan Peredaran Narkotika Lain (BNN Cooperates with Countries in South America to Prevent the Entry of Cocaine and Other Narcotics from Circulating),” tvonenews.com (considered neutral Indonesian language media source), 9 June 2022. https://www.tvonenews.com/berita/nasional/45935-bnn-jalin-kerja-sama-dengan-negara-negara-di-amerika-selatan-cegah-masuknya-kokain-dan-peredaran-narkotika-lain

Head of the National Narcotics Agency of the Republic of Indonesia (BNN RI) Petrus Reinhard Golose said that his team was cooperating with a number of countries in South America to prevent the entry of cocaine and other trafficked narcotics into Indonesia. Golose explained that the cooperation that BNN has established with countries in South America targets areas around the Andes Mountains. The head of the NNA confirmed that although the circulation of cocaine took place in the Americas, it was possible for Indonesia to become one of the destination countries for the circulation.

Source: “Panama – Indonesia untuk Pertama Kalinya akan Melakukan Kerja Sama Penanggulangan Narkoba (Panama – Indonesia for the First Time to Conduct Drug Countermeasures Cooperation), kemlu.go.id (website of the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), 25 May 2022. https://kemlu.go.id/portal/id/read/3631/berita/panama-indonesia-untuk-pertama-kalinya-akan-melakukan-kerja-sama-penanggulangan-narkoba

With the support of the Indonesian Embassy in Panama City, the Head of the National Narcotics Agency and his team held a meeting with ministerial-level officials…. Panama itself is not a drug-producing country, but is a hub area for drug dealers in Latin America who come from surrounding drug-producing countries…. In this case, Panama and Indonesia can share experiences both in handling and tackling the use and distribution of drugs, as well as proper law enforcement techniques for dealing with drug issues.

Source: “Jumlah Tersangka Narkoba Menurun dalam 3 Tahun Terakhir (Number of Drug Suspects Decreased in the Last 3 Years),” databoks.katadata.co.ide (web-based Indonesian language media outlet), 29 May 2022. https://databoks.katadata.co.id/datapublish/2022/05/26/jumlah-tersangka-narkoba-menurun-dalam-3-tahun-terakhir

According to a report by the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), the number of suspects in narcotics and illegal drugs or narcotics cases in Indonesia has decreased over the past three years. However, if one looks at the trend, since 2009 the number of narcotics suspects has tended to increase, with a record high of 1,545 people in 2018.

Image Information:

Image: National Narcotics Agency (BNN) logo
Source: Kampung Jawa, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Logo_BNN.svg
Attribution: CC x 2.0

Al-Qaeda’s Sahel Affiliate Targets Togo

“For a little more than two years, Togo had been preparing for the expansion of Sahelian terrorist groups on its territory.”

On 11 May, the al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for Supporters of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) attacked a Togolese military checkpoint.  The attack, which claimed eight Togolese soldiers, was JNIM’s first known attack in Togo and may indicate further attacks to come.  The excerpted article from the political affairs-oriented French-language journaldelafrique.com notes that the attack reflects JNIM’s longtime plans to expand into Togo.  It also claims that Togo’s military preparations to secure its borders with Burkina Faso made the Togolese soldiers a target for JNIM.  The article cites previous JNIM attacks in Côte d’Ivoire and Benin as examples of JNIM’s intention to strike Togo.

The journaldelafrique.com article also suggests that military pressure from Mali is pressing JNIM in the tri-border area between Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, forcing JNIM to move southward.  The article notes that JNIM reconnaissance teams had previously been arrested in northern Togo but were released due to a legal loophole.  The article concludes that the attack in Togo had ample warnings.  However, the article does not blame the army but instead focuses its disdain on Togo’s intelligence apparatus, who it claims should have noticed the 60 JNIM fighters entering Togolese territory and alerted the military that JNIM or other terrorist groups had infiltrated the country.


“GSIM claims responsibility for the Kpékpakandi terrorist attack,” togobreakingnews.info (French language news website), 7 June 2022. https://togobreakingnews.info/togo-gsim-revendique-lattaque-terroriste/

The terrorist attack on May 11 against the checkpoint of Kpekpakandi (Togo-Burkina border) is the work of the Group of Support for Islam and Muslims. The toll of this murderous operation was 8 dead and 13 wounded on the side of the defense and security forces of Togo…. This attack is also the first deadly one that Togo has experienced since the terrorist threat has raged in the West African sub-region.

Source: “Is Togo up to this new terrorist challenge?” journaldelafrique.com (political affairs oriented French-language news source), 12 May 2022. https://lejournaldelafrique.com/le-togo-est-il-a-la-hauteur-de-ce-nouveau-terroriste//

An attack caused the deaths of eight Togolese soldiers. The attack took place in Kpinkankandi, where the Togolese army is conducting its Kondjouaré operation, which aims to secure the borders with Burkina Faso.

For a little more than two years, Togo had been preparing for the expansion of Sahelian terrorist groups on its territory…. The latter [JNIM] have seen their influence in the “Tri-Border” area dwindle under the offensive of the Malian army in recent months…. Meanwhile, Côte d’Ivoire had suffered several attacks targeting soldiers on the borders with Burkina Faso. More recently, Benin also had to deal with three deadly attacks at the end of 2021.

In Togo, the security authorities had to expect a terrorist attack. It remained to be seen when it would take place. Several members of armed group reconnaissance cells had previously been apprehended in northern Togo, and then were released after interrogation due to a legal loophole…. But the response seems to have been slow on the part of the intelligence services which will, it seems, have great difficulty in curbing the terrorist threat in the short term.