Turkey in Review October 13-28, 2021

October 29, 2021 - Ezgi Yazici

The Turkish government has consistently expanded its Africa outreach as a component of enlarging and diversifying Turkey's global footprint since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s election in 2003. Ankara more recently began using defense ties to strengthen the diplomatic foundations of its outreach to African states. Growing international interest in Turkey’s domestic defense industry is speeding up this shift toward a defense-oriented approach in bilateral relations, particularly since Azerbaijan’s Turkey-enabled victory in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020.

Afghanistan Warning Update: IS-KP in Afghanistan is Expanding Faster than Anticipated

October 27, 2021 - Peter Mills

Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-KP) is expanding its support zones and attack zones across Afghanistan as part of a campaign to undermine and replace the Taliban government. Most IS-KP attacks target Taliban fighters and officials in Nangarhar and Kunar Provinces. The presence of IS-KP propaganda materials indicates that IS-KP is expanding in northern and southern Afghanistan. Bombings at major Shi’a mosques in Kunduz on October 8 and Kandahar on October 15 indicate that IS-KP is attempting to incite sectarian conflict in Afghanistan. Taliban land expropriations from largely Shi’a communities to Sunni Taliban fighters are also increasing sectarian tensions. The contradictory efforts to protect these communities while redistributing their land will complicate the Taliban’s efforts to pose as a defender of Afghanistan’s Shi’a. If IS-KP continues to expand and strengthen, it could develop havens that enable it to conduct attacks outside Afghanistan.

Iran’s Axis of Resistance in Review, October 10-20, 2021

October 22, 2021 - Press ISW

Iran’s Iraqi proxies will likely increase their use of violence and other forms of coercion against political opponents and the Iraqi state in the coming months. The political wings of Iran’s Iraqi proxies lost two-thirds of their parliamentary seats in Iraq’s October 10, 2021, elections, which they are legally contesting due to perceived fraud. Iran’s Iraqi proxies may escalate against UN, US, Emirati, or suspected Israeli personnel or assets in retaliation for their perceived role in the proxies’ political losses in the coming months. Domestic political conflicts, Iranian decision-making, Iranian proxy attempts to enforce the December 31 deadline for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, and the potential for a new regional ISIS campaign to stir up sectarian violence could exacerbate post-electoral Iranian proxy violence in Iraq.

Russia in Review: October 6-19, 2021

October 21, 2021 - Press ISW

The Kremlin advanced two key lines of effort to increase Russian influence globally at the 2021 Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) ministerial summit—leveraging international organizations and expanding Russian cyber capabilities and influence. The CICA is an inter-governmental forum of 27 Asian and Eurasian member states founded in 1992 to enhance cooperation and promote security and stability in Asia.[1] CICA held the 2021 iteration of its biannual conference in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, on October 12.

Turkey in Review: September 27-October 12

October 15, 2021 - Ezgi Yazici

Turkey’s Balancing Act between Russia and the United States Falters

By Ezgi Yazici

Russia in Review: September 22 – October 5, 2021

October 7, 2021 - Press ISW

Serbian President Alexander Vucic exploited Kosovo’s implementation of a new border crossing law to frame Kosovo Serbs as victims of ethnic discrimination and provoke a regional crisis on September 20, 2021. Kosovo’s government-imposed license plate regulations requiring Serbian cars entering Kosovo to receive temporary Kosovar license plates – a reciprocal measure of how Serbian authorities have regulated Kosovar cars entering Serbia for several years – on September 20. Kosovo ethnic Serbs blocked two border crossings with Serbia in northern Kosovo to protest this policy on September 20. Kosovar riot police deployed to the roadblocks and reportedly used tear gas against Serb protesters on September 20. Vucic decried Kosovar police uses of force against ethnic Serb protesters, claiming that Serbs in Kosovo suffered a “brutal attack.” Likely ethnic Serb protesters committed arson against a Kosovo vehicle registration office that did not cause casualties on September 25.

Russia in Review: September 1 – September 21, 2021

September 23, 2021 - Press ISW

Russia’s ruling United Russia Party retained its majority in highly falsified parliamentary elections. The State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, conducted its five-year elections from September 17-19. The Kremlin-run Central Elections Commission (CEC) reported in preliminary results on September 21 that the United Russia party won 49.8 percent of the vote, securing 324 out of 450 seats, and announced a turnout of 52 percent.[1] United Russia held 343 seats before the election.

Recent Iranian Proxy Attack in Iraqi Kurdistan Unlikely a Signal for New Escalation

September 17, 2021 - Katherine Lawlor

The recent Iranian proxy drone attack on Erbil International Airport was likely a stand-alone event and likely does not indicate the immediate resumption of large-scale Iranian proxy attacks on US facilities in Iraq. Iranian proxy militants launched two drones targeting what Iran assessed to be an Israeli intelligence asset at Erbil International Airport in Iraqi Kurdistan on September 11, 2021, possibly triggering an Israeli retaliatory strike on a proxy convoy in Abu Kamal, Syria, on September 14. Iran may have approved this attack after US and Israeli political and military leaders met in recent weeks to discuss their strategies for addressing the threat Iran poses to US, Israeli, and regional security. The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 New York terrorist attacks may have influenced the timing of the attack. Iran will likely maintain its ban on large-scale attacks on US facilities in Iraq until after Iraq’s October 10 elections and possibly until the end of 2021 unless the Iran-Israel escalation cycle spills further into Iraq.

Russia’s Zapad-2021 Exercise

September 17, 2021 - Press ISW

Russia and Belarus conducted a joint strategic exercise in September 2021 that provides essential insight into the evolving capabilities of the Russian and Belarusian militaries. The exercise advanced the Kremlin's ongoing campaign to cement its control of the Belarusian military.

Turkey Aims to Play Stabilizing Role in Afghanistan after NATO Withdrawal

September 3, 2021 - Ezgi Yazici

Turkey is evaluating the changing security environment and the emerging Taliban government to strike a minimal-risk balance between Ankara’s ambitions and constraints. Turkey evacuated its troops from Afghanistan on August 27 after months-long negotiations with US and Taliban representatives to retain a security role in the country after NATO’s departure. However, Turkish officials are still signaling their intent to adopt a political and security role in Afghanistan and to become the Taliban’s primary interlocutor with the West.The Turkish government will likely remain committed to playing a stabilizing role in Afghanistan—primarily through non-military channels—to promote its international standing as an influential regional power.