Tag Archives: Syrian Democratic Forces

Losing in Yemen, Winning in Afghanistan, Islamic State Weighs in on Arab-Israeli Peace

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 22 August 2020

Al-Naba 248

The Islamic State (IS) produced the 248th edition of Al-Naba, its newsletter, on 20 August. The front page was devoted to recent events in Yemen, which had not gone well for IS—although one could easily miss that fact when reading a story that a focuses almost entirely on enemy casualties and the failures of others. IS is, of course, not pleased about the Israeli normalisation of relations with the United Arab Emirates, but Al-Naba makes clear that it is more perturbed that Muslims should believe Turkey or Qatar are any better than the U.A.E., despite their different approach to Islamists. Al-Naba 248 documents IS’s continuing advances in Afghanistan—and, indeed, Iraq, Syria, Africa (the Sahel), and Egypt. There is also a report of insurgent activity in the Philippines. Continue reading

Islamic State, Afghanistan, and Replenishment Through Prison Breaks

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 21 August 2020

Al-Naba 246, front page, 6 August 2020

The Islamic State (IS) published the 246th edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on 6 August, which highlighted the 2-3 August prison break in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, a massive IS operation lasting twenty-plus hours, and proclaimed that freeing IS jihadists from prisons will now be a priority for the group. In 2012, shortly after the American withdrawal from Iraq, IS announced Operation BREAKING THE WALLS, which went on for a year, breaking open Iraqi prisons. The narrative of the IS’s “defeat” by the Surge and Awakening of 2007-08 is problematic in some of its fundamentals, but among the reasons it proved to be so fleeting in practice was this prison-break campaign that restored to the battlefield key IS operatives who planned the caliphate project in 2014. It is, therefore, alarming to see the arrival of such a campaign in Afghanistan at the moment the U.S. is headed, heedlessly, for the exit. Continue reading

Islamic State Celebrates the Murderer of Sikhs in Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 June 2020

Al-Naba 239, page 9

The Islamic State (IS) released the 239th edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on 18 June. Pages 9 and 10 of this twelve-page document were given over to a profile of Abu Khaled al-Hindi, the jihadist elsewhere named as Mohammad Sajid Kuthirummal who massacred twenty-five worshippers at a Sikh gurdwara or temple in Kabul three months ago, on 25 March 2020, during an hours-long siege. The details of Abu Khaled’s life—finding IS after being repelled by “nationalist” jihadist groups, fighting while injured, his obedience to IS’s leaders, and thirst for “martyrdom”—are relatively standard hagiography from IS. What is really worth noting is that such an extensive focus on him, and through him on Afghanistan, underlines the importance IS has placed on its Afghan branch, Wilayat Khorasan. Continue reading

Turkey Increases the Pressure on the PKK Headquarters in Iraq

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 12 June 2020

Ismail Nazlikul (Kasim Engin) [image source]

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) announced earlier this week that one of its senior commanders, Ismail Nazlikul (who used the codename “Kasim Engin”) had been killed on 27 May in a Turkish airstrike in Iraqi Kurdistan. Continue reading

Coalition Eliminates Senior Islamic State Official Haji Tayseer

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 26 May 2020

Islamic State Wilayat al-Anbar, October 2017

This morning, the Iraqi government announced that Moataz Numan al-Jaburi (Haji Tayseer), a senior member of the Islamic State (IS), had been killed in Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria by an airstrike from the U.S.-led Coalition, utilising intelligence supplied by Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS, Jihaz Mukafahat al-Irhab). Continue reading

Former Head of Islamic State Executive Committee Speaks

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 23 May 2020

Abd al-Nasr, who claims his real name is allegedly Taha al-Ghassani (image sources 1 & 2)

There is now, with various caveats, a general agreement that the Islamic State (IS) is on the upswing—in Iraq, particularly, but also in the Badiya, the desert regions of eastern Syria, and more recently in the south of Syria around Deraa. Still, there have been some recent notable gains against the terrorist group. Continue reading

Syria and Coronavirus

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 6 April 2020

The first quarter of 2020 saw a serious escalation of combat in Syria, albeit without much alteration in the political trends, and the arrival of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has exacerbated a fraught situation. Continue reading

Islamic State Spokesman Vows Revenge Against Enemies, Plays the Israel Card

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 21 February 2020

The Islamic State’s (IS) spokesman, Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, gave his second speech on 27 January 2020. The speech was entitled, “Allah Destroyed Everything Over Them, and for the Kafireen is Something Comparable”, by IS’s official English translation. The title is drawn from the Qur’an, the Surah of Muhammad (47), verse 10. The verse can be rendered as, “God Destroyed Them Completely, and a Similar Fate Awaits the Disbelievers”. Below is a copy of the transcript of Abu Hamza’s speech, with some editions for transliteration and translation, and some interesting sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading

The Darker Side of the Western Enthusiasm for “The Kurds”

A version of this article was published in The Arab Weekly

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 24 November 2019

Solider from the Syrian regime holds up a portrait of Bashar al-Asad and a Syrian national flag, another stands by the Kurdish YPG/PKK flag, in Kobani, 18 October 2019. (AFP)

Mustafa Bali, head of the press office for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the coalition partner against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, sent a tweet on November 14 showing Turkey’s Arab proxies engaged in “ISIS chants.” By this, he meant the takbir, “God is Great,” an expression used by Muslims every day. When criticised, Bali doubled down and blocked many critics. This was a microcosm of one of the darker threads in an SDF messaging strategy that is among the most effective propaganda campaigns on record. Continue reading

Trump’s Middle East Failure Was Made By Obama

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 19 November 2019

President Barack Obama meeting President-elect Donald Trump, 10 November 2016 [image source]

October 2019 may well remain in the popular memory as the inflection point marking the collapse of America’s — and by extension, the West’s — position in at least the northern Middle East. Having been thwarted twice before in efforts to leave Syria, in March and December 2018, President Donald Trump made one more try. For many, ‘Trump betrayed the Kurds’ will be the summary of the events that followed as Turkey made a swift move into the vacuum. The reality is a lot more complicated, and in truth the amount of blame that Trump can take for the events of the last month is rather limited. This catastrophe was baked into the policy of Barack Obama, and Trump’s main fault is to have followed the policy track laid down by his predecessor. Continue reading