Conflict Risk Alerts: Deteriorated Situations

Afghanistan

In rapid takeover, Taliban regained control over country, prompting fall of govt and ending 20-year U.S. occupation; uncertainty over new political order fuelled domestic and international security concerns. In dramatic shift, govt 15 Aug collapsed and Taliban gained control of most territory, including all border crossings and major urban centres – with notable exception of Panjshir Valley province (north). As Taliban reached capital Kabul, President Ghani 15 Aug fled abroad, along with many other govt officials. Govt’s fall prompted mass exodus of Afghans fearing Taliban retaliation, notably causing chaos at Hamid Karzai International Airport; two bombs 26 Aug exploded outside Kabul airport, reportedly killing as many as 200 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members; Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) claimed responsibility. Following Taliban’s takeover, U.S. mid-Aug froze Afghanistan’s central bank reserves in U.S. while International Monetary Fund and World Bank suspended payments to country; UN and humanitarian organisations called for continued assistance to country amid dire humanitarian crisis. Regional and international partners to Afghanistan had yet to announce positions on sanctions, financial aid and recognition of new govt by month’s end, waiting for Taliban to make meaningful compromises in new political order. Taliban’s rapid advances in early Aug partly due to local ‘surrender deals’ which granted safe passage to security forces in return for weapons and district centres as insurgents late July to mid-Aug launched simultaneous attacks on provincial capitals in south, east and north. Following initial hearty resistance, particularly in Helmand province (south), Kandahar city (south) and Herat province (west), insurgents captured provincial capitals in lightly defended areas. Taliban 6 Aug held first provincial capital in Nimroz province (south west), gaining control of last remaining border crossing to Iran under govt oversight; 7 Aug captured capital of Jawzjan province (north); 9 Aug captured provinces of Sar-e Pul (north) and Kunduz (north), second largest city in north; 12 Aug captured Ghazni (centre), Kandahar (south), Herat (west) and Badghis (north west). Loss of Herat and Kandahar, notably important cities, seemed to have broken security forces’ moral, who following day had abandoned provincial capitals of Helmand (south), Logar (east), Uruzgan (south), Zabul (south) and Ghor (centre) provinces.

Lebanon

Central Bank’s cut of subsidies dramatically worsened fuel crisis and sparked unrest; Hizbollah and Israel exchanged fire. On economic front, worsening fuel crisis led to drastic shortages. Central Bank governor Riyadh Salameh 11 Aug halted provision of heavily subsidised exchange rates to energy importers, citing foreign currency reserves reaching lowest legal limit; decision would have forced importers to impose five-fold increase on prices for gasoline, but ministry of energy refrained from adjusting tariffs, leading to severe supply and distribution disruption. Resulting shortages caused generator operators to cut further service hours, hospitals to issue warnings about inability to care for intensive-care patients and kilometres-long queues at gas stations, where gunfire caused several casualties during month. Notably, security forces 14 Aug raided fuel storage to prevent hoarding or smuggling of fuel to Syria, causing gas explosion that killed more than 30 civilians and soldiers and injured dozens more. In response, President Aoun, govt and Central Bank 21 Aug agreed to extend fuel subsidies until end Sept at lower level, limiting price increases. Reports late month indicated violent incidents related to shortages of gas and other goods continued, including in Maghdouche and Anqoun southern towns. Meanwhile, PM-designate Najib Mikati 5 Aug reported gradual progress toward formation of new cabinet and called meeting same day with Aoun “positive step forward”; Mikati and Aoun during month engaged in frequent direct negotiations on govt composition. By end of month, however, no breakthrough had been reached. Unclaimed rockets fired from southern Lebanon 4 Aug struck Israeli border town Kiryat Shimona; Israeli air force next day retaliated with air strikes in first such attacks inside Lebanon since 2013/2014. In response, Hizbollah 6 Aug launched 19 rockets at uninhabited areas of disputed Shebaa farms area, triggering Israeli mortar response. In incident underscoring lingering sectarian tensions, brother of teenager killed in Sept 2020 clashes near capital Beirut between Hizbollah and Sunni Arabs 31 July shot dead alleged Hizbollah-linked perpetrator in southern town of Jiyeh; relatives of teenager 1 Aug ambushed attendees at alleged perpetrator’s funeral, clashes left another five dead before army deployed to end confrontation.

Tunisia

In worst political crisis since 2011, President Saïed extended parliament’s suspension indefinitely, consolidating his power grab. Following late-July move to dismiss govt, suspend parliament and assume public prosecutor’s powers, Saïed 5 Aug said there was “no turning back”, dismissed “dialogue except with the honest” and pledged “rights and freedoms” would not be violated. Several prominent civil society organisations same day jointly called on Saïed to swiftly release roadmap for ending exceptional measures. Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi 11 Aug acknowledged public anger over country’s economic and political situation, pledged his Islamist-inspired An-Nahda party – which was part of coalition govt and largest group in parliament – would “engage in self-criticism” and review its policies to match Tunisians’ aspirations; also stressed situation does not justify taking “step back from democracy”. Saïed 23 Aug however extended suspension of parliament “until further notice”. Dismissal of senior govt officials continued, including Economy Minister Ali Kooli and Communications Technology Minister Mohamed Fadhel Kraiem 2 Aug. Reshuffle of top security officials also under way: Saïed 18 Aug reportedly appointed new director general of national security and new commander of National Guard, while interior ministry next day appointed nine senior officials including new intelligence chief. Meanwhile, authorities 6 Aug placed senior An-Nahda official and former Minister Anouar Maarouf under house arrest over alleged abuse of authority; 12 Aug arrested 14 individuals including public officials and issued arrest warrants for three others, including former industry minister, for alleged corruption; former head of anti-corruption body Chawki Tabib placed under house arrest 20 Aug after security forces earlier same day took control of body’s headquarters in capital Tunis. NGO Amnesty International 26 Aug said at least 50 people, including judges, senior state officials and civil servants, arbitrarily barred from travelling abroad over past month, noted total number facing travel bans likely to be far greater; Saied 16 Aug said travel bans form part of efforts to prevent people suspected of corruption or of posing security threat from leaving country. Egypt 3 Aug expressed support for Saïed’s “historic measures”, while U.S. 13 Aug urged “swift return to…parliamentary democracy”, stressed “need to appoint a PM-designate”.

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