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5 NatSec Things - 22 Feb 2018

Today's things: ISIS expands; Syria gets AKs; Iraqi victory is fleeting; Kabul street sweeping; a bom
February 22 · Issue #38 · View online
5 NatSec Things
Today’s things: ISIS expands; Syria gets AKs; Iraqi victory is fleeting; Kabul street sweeping; a bombing in Nigeria.
Admin note: putting this on hiatus for the next several weeks.
See you when I pick it up again.

1. An ISIS thing
ISIS finds its new niche market in Africa
Whether we’re talking toothpaste, whack-a-mole, or some other mundane thing that poorly illustrates how terrorist groups expand, the problem is always the same: press down on point A, and they pop up in point B. Except that affiliation doesn’t always mean the same as emigration.
The specter of ISIS returnees haunts come countries, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with the recent outbreak of ISISitis in West Africa. Rather, there are fringe groups of other groups like Boko Haram that like the ISIS brand better.
So they reflag themselves, swap out the t-shirts, and have a loose connection to some kind of ISIS leadership. Of course the US military says the new groups are more dangerous than ever. Which makes sense since said military has a vested interest in making Africa look super dangerous in order to continue justify defense spending on the continent.
2. A Syria thing
US going full Oprah with AKs in Syria
Nope. Doesn't get old. Not ever.
The US wants to double the number of assault rifles its shipping to its partners in places like Syria. Which, for those of you playing along at home, includes some Kurdish groups. Which, for those of you joining us from Ankara, makes you less happy.
The Americans are walking the fine line of not leaving its partners without guns, while at the same time not arming groups with bigger guns that Turkey considers terrorists. Because while casual observers like this guy want us to back the sentimental favorites (Go Team Kurdistan!), Turkey’s the better bet in the long run if/when we have to counter a near-peer threat like Russia.
Near-peer: that’s a new phrase to meet. Sounds like something from Mean Girls or Heathers or one of those tone deaf after school special movies they’ve revived for marathons on Lifetime. It doesn’t really capture the idea that we’re not whacking dudes with sandals and knockoff AKs anymore. 
Or we’re doing that, while still making plans for possible confrontation with the likes of Moscow, Beijing, and Pyongyang. Which is all kinds of problematic if we can’t base gear out of Turkey. So the Kurds get the AKs, but not the bigger stuff. And maybe we don’t piss off Turkey too much. 
3. An Iraq thing
Iraqi victories are the snowflakes of US intervention
And by that I mean they’re fragile and hard to build off of. Because unless it’s Frozen and we’re building a snowman, a snowflake is pretty hard to sustain. What US troops are also seeing? Continued conflicts between Sunni and Shia. 
Dammit, this feels terribly, awfully, painfully familiar. 
Because beating ISIS doesn’t mean that the rivalries that are still part of the Iraqi landscape have gone away. The Iranians have a major foothold in the country that they’re leveraging in a major way. In this particular article an American lieutenant learns that people he thinks are returnees to a local village? Newly displaced persons kicked out of their village by a Shia militia.
Fun times. 
Shooting people in the face? Easy. Getting people to overcome their differences and pull together for a common national good? Not.
4. An Afghanistan thing
Kabul street sweepers getting used to finding an arm and a leg
We’ve all had that day at work: spreadsheet’s not calculating right, someone changed the fonts on that report, and your'e not sure what version of the quarterly progress review you’ve got in front of you.
Or you could be a street cleaner in Kabul. Where on top of the sewage, the pollution, and the general shittiness of your job, you now get to help clean up in the aftermath of a terrorist bombing. Said bombings don’t end well for anyone. 
Why put this here except for the gore factor? It’s a human story. About humans. Doing whatever they can to put food on the table for their families. And some evil motherfuckers are making a hard job harder. And I fucking hate it. 
5. An Africa thing
Nigeria: come for the fish market, stay for the suicide bombing
Fish sales are booming in Nigeria lately.
I’ll wait while you unclench. 
I know I had to before getting to the next bit. 
Nothing funny about people dying just because they’re going to the market. Nothing amusing about innocents being targeted by some deluded asshole who probably believes his God told him to do it. So let’s get THAT out of the way.
Because while we’re focused on bombings in places like Syria and Afghanistan and Yemen, which we should be, there’s things going bang in Africa, too. Which needs to concern us, since what’s brewing is another series of protracted wars in places our president can’t pronounce. 
To be fair, I keep getting “Nigerian” and “Nigerien” screwed up.
Then again, I’m not in charge of a country.
Solution to this? Something something diplomacy and finesse.
That’s the theory.
In practice, what’s going to happen is another series of US interventions propping up the not-so-bad guys to help battle the bad guys. Until the bad guys are all gone and we’re left to figure out what to do with the not-so-bad guys. Rinse. Repeat.
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