Charles Lister Profile picture
Senior Fellow & Director of @MEI_Syria & @MEI_CTE programs at @MiddleEastInst. Author of #TheSyrianJihad & more. American-British in DC.
🇬🇧DR.Renton🐸🇺🇸⭐⭐⭐PM-Elect✝️🇧🇷🇮🇹⌛️🥓🤣🐶 Profile picture Adam Smithee Profile picture Aviva Gabriel Profile picture ⚘Sherry⚘ Profile picture Georgi Mitchew Profile picture 8 added to My Authors
16 Sep
"I absolutely reject that somehow, what's about to happen to women because of the #Taliban taking over the government is simply something we have to tolerate as the prince of doing business in South & Central Asia."

@BrookingsInst President Gen Allen speaking to @MiddleEastInst: Image
@BrookingsInst @MiddleEastInst "Where this really began to unravel was then when U.S. chose to make a separate deal with the #Taliban, to exclude the #Afghan govt & to set a certain date for when we'd depart... only then did we begin to see the real problem unfold."

Gen Allen speaking to @MiddleEastInst: Image
@BrookingsInst @MiddleEastInst "When we departed, there was a very real signal: 'you are on your own'... The advisors left... When we pulled out, we took out about 18,000 contractors... the way we equipped them, they relied wholly on those contractors."

Gen. Allen speaking to @MiddleEastInst: Image
Read 5 tweets
28 Aug
BREAKING -- a U.S. drone strike has targeted #ISIS-K operatives in eastern #Afghanistan.

via @idreesali114
@idreesali114 The U.S. strike today targeted #ISIS-K in #Afghanistan's #Nangarhar province

Earlier, unnamed IC officials had said explosive devices & other materials had been sent by #ISIS from #Nangarhar to #Kabul in recent days.
@idreesali114 Earlier today, the #Taliban was reported to have engaged in clashes with #ISIS-K cells in #Nangarhar's Dara-i-Noor district.

The #Taliban-#ISIS conflict has been centered in #Nangarhar & neighboring #Kunar provinces.
Read 8 tweets
24 Aug
#Biden's decision to stick to the Aug 31 deadline is bold -- it raises 2 key risks:

1) We'll be leaving people behind, certainly 1,000s of #Afghans & quite likely, a few Americans in hard-to-reach spots.

2) Other G7/NATO states have been rebuffed again by #Biden -- more anger.
"#Biden's decision to pull out troops was backed by most Americans, 53%-38%. But almost two-thirds, 62%, disapproved of the way his administration has handled that withdrawal."

Overall approval rating now 41%.

New polling on #Afghanistan's impact:

usatoday.com/story/news/pol… Image
BREAKING -- The US military has begun re-withdrawing from #Afghanistan, per US officials.

Very worrying sign for the 10,000s of those left behind - mostly #Americans, but some U.S. & European nationals too.
Read 65 tweets
24 Aug
Note to all -- it *is* possible for both these things to be true:

1) The #Afghanistan withdrawal has been a debacle, due to a lack of planning; hurried schedule; & ignoring worst-case scenarios.

2) The USG & NATO evacuation effort in recent days has been extraordinary & heroic.
Similarly, while it's entirely legitimate to argue that staying in #Afghanistan for 20yrs was illustrative of mission creep and strategic errors, that doesn't in any way mean that a withdrawal was guaranteed to result in chaos, humanitarian crisis & a terrorist state.
If a public figure is telling you that policy 'failure' in #Afghanistan made chaos inevitable -- he/she is lying to you.

If a public figure tells you that the heroic [crisis] evacuation effort is evidence that everything's fine -- he/she is also lying to you.

Think & question.
Read 6 tweets
24 Aug
There's lots of first-hand accounts of this from recent days -- intensifying over time. For now, the window's closing/closed for #Afghans, as the U.S. & others prioritize their citizens' evacuation.

This was all inevitable given the tight timeline, and it'll worsen too.
More than any other aspect of the #Afghanistan withdrawal, this is what should have been 100% avoidable.

And as @RepAdamSchiff has just stated, the IC *did* warn of a swift #Taliban victory -- this was *not* an intelligence failure, it was a political/decision-making one.
@RepAdamSchiff The #Taliban aren't stupid; they know the U.S. (& #NATO allies) are under pressure -- #Taliban fighters have significantly increased their intimidation of Afghans outside #HKIA - countless reports of beating, whipping & even gunfire.

And they're blocking known meeting points.
Read 12 tweets
16 Aug
Smoke & mirrors -- #Biden is clearly determined to defend the policy of withdrawal, but that's not the core reason for today's anger.

The debacle was *how* that withdrawal was conducted. It's just not enough to shoulder-off the blame to #Afghanistan. Image
"The #Taliban doesn't even have an airforce," #Biden says.

- Well, they certainly do now, Mr President. Image
If I'm not mistaken, #Biden hasn't yet mentioned the appalling suffering, panic & terror being felt by so many across #Afghanistan -- it's all about defending the withdrawal & blaming the disaster on #Afghans.

Just a bafflingly tone deaf message, considering global attention. Image
Read 58 tweets
15 Aug
NEW - #Taliban prepping for a conference inside #Afghanistan's Presidential Palace.

Reports said they planned to re-proclaim the Islamic Emirate of #Afghanistan.
During the AJA-televised conference, one #Taliban commander (is that Mullah Zakir?) says he spent 8yrs in #Guantanamo.

A clear salt-in-wound moment for the U.S.
One #Taliban commander speaking from #Afghanistan's Presidential Palace says #Taliban forces have been "coordinating with" U.S. officials today, amid their entry into #Kabul.
Read 13 tweets
9 Aug
Catastrophic 72hrs for #Afghanistan, as the #Taliban capture 5 provincial capitals -- taking military bases, airports, emptying prisons etc.

The U.S. (then NATO) withdrawal is clearly an utter disaster, but that ship has sailed -- muted response from #Washington says everything.
#Taliban control in #Afghanistan:

Mid-April: 77 districts:
Early-August: 229 districts

Nearly 50% of provincial capitals are now under #Taliban threat.

(via @LongWarJournal) ImageImage
@LongWarJournal NEW -- Early reports emerging that the #Taliban may have just captured its 6th provincial capital in 4 days: #Aybak, in #Samangan.
Read 58 tweets
29 Jul
What happened in #Daraa today was not a surprise -- it's been on the cards for 2+ years.

#Assad won't "reconcile" with opponents he has labeled "germs" since 2011 & #Russia has unsurprisingly proven incapable of facilitating the impossible.

This is why UNSCR 2254 exists.
In 2019-20, the most consistently unstable region of #Syria was #Daraa.

Far from being "reconciled," the "cradle of the revolution" had been brutally suppressed & forced to a surrender - & few/none of its conditions were later met.

That's no solution to a decade-long hostility.
When #Syria's largest "reconciled zone" is the country's most unstable, you have incontrovertible evidence that #Russia's reconciliation strategy is a failure.

#Syria will never stabilize with an unchallenged #Assad at the helm - this ought to be clear by today.
Read 8 tweets
15 Jul
This all sounds eerily familiar & we all know what happened last time…

Incidentally, a step-by-step #Iraq withdrawal will impede & eventually kill the U.S. D-#ISIS presence too - where the fate of 10,000s or #ISIS-linked individuals remains entirely up in the air.
There are a lot of unknowns here:

- What's "step by step"?
- Are the steps conditional or unconditional/predetermined?
- What's the timeline?
- OIR has no combat troops, so language here is ambiguous.

Is #Baghdad playing politics again & making a mountain out of a molehill?
I'd guess that NSC #MiddleEast Coordinator McGurk asserted the existing USG position -- that U.S. troops won't be in #Iraq forever; the mission is changing (combat to advisory); and a withdrawal will gradually happen.

#Baghdad has pounced on that to assuage internal concerns.
Read 6 tweets
12 Jul
With a deal done at UNSC on Friday, cross-border aid will continue flowing via Bab al-Hawa, but doubts about #Russia's obstructionism remain; needs [will] continue to rise & perceived concessions raise Qs re. the long-term.

My latest for @MiddleEastInst:
mei.edu/blog/monday-br…
@MiddleEastInst "Any money that is sent to the U.N. mission in #Damascus in one way or another benefits the regime."

- My comments to @ForeignPolicy's @columlynch regarding a likely increase in funding to cross-line aid coordinated in #Damascus:

foreignpolicy.com/2021/07/09/uni…
@MiddleEastInst @ForeignPolicy @columlynch While most UNSC members are convinced the 2nd 6-month cross-border extension will be automatic, #Russia doesn't seem convinced.

Thanks to @pass_blue for highlighting my analysis following Friday's crunch UNSC vote on #Syria aid:

passblue.com/2021/07/09/cru…
Read 4 tweets
6 Jul
The stakes involved in this UNSC #Syria vote are huge -- yet it shouldn't be a subject of debate at all.

Making use of its UN veto, #Russia seeks to starve #Syrians into submission -- for a guide to the issue, read this, by Jeffrey Feltman & myself:

politico.com/news/magazine/…
#Russia claims that cross-border aid should end & be replaced by cross-line assistance sent from #Damascus -- but that's BS.

For the 4.5m people in NW #Syria in the last 12 months:

- Cross-border: ~12,000 trucks
- Cross-line: 0

Negotiations for cross-line have gone nowhere.
In recent weeks, every single UN body & all major INGOs have made it 100% clear: "there's no alternative to cross-border aid."

Given #Russia's pitiful role in UN aid to #Syria (most years, IKEA funds more than #Moscow), it's simply exasperating that it would cut it altogether.
Read 6 tweets
26 Jun
Earlier this evening, penholders #Norway/#Ireland distributed a draft resolution specifying that crossings at Bab al-Hawa (NW) & al-Yaroubiya (NE) should be opened July 10.

In response, @USAmbUN has indicated the U.S. still demands all 3 crossings be opened (+ Bab al-Salameh).
@USAmbUN Though it's still early days, the effect of U.S pressure & behind-scenes face-off/negotiations has begun to emerge:

- @RussiaUN publicly praised recent U.S. sanctions safeguards & #COVID-linked sanctions easing
- @USAmbUN asserted support for cross-line being 'part of solution.'
@USAmbUN @RussiaUN This would give some credence to things I've heard privately & what Joey Hood suggested in an earlier @StateDept_NEA briefing -- that there's some hope that a compromise will be found that allows cross-border (at minimum, via Bab al-Hawa) to continue.

Qs is, what's driving that?
Read 4 tweets
21 Jun
At my count, the #Taliban have captured 30+ districts across #Afghanistan in 48hrs -- 100s of #ANA forces have surrendered & handed over bases, arms depots, weapons & vehicles.

The pace of the #Taliban's advance since the U.S. withdrawal announcement is shocking.
According to @oryxspioenkop, the #ANA has handed over 83 U.S-provided Humvees to the #Taliban in the past 3 days alone.

Over the past 3 weeks: 149 Humvees.

Meaningful numbers of howitzers have been surrendered too.
@oryxspioenkop Since the U.S. withdrawal announcement, the #Taliban has taken control of 75+ districts across #Afghanistan -- that's ~20% of the country.

The most movement has been in the north -- in Faryab & Kunduz, where the #Taliban now enjoy almost unchallenged freedom of movement.
Read 9 tweets
2 Jun
Protests continue in #Manbij for the 3rd day today, as locals demonstrate against the #SDF's policy of forced conscription.

The tensions have turned deadly this time, with 6+ dead.

Nearby, #Turkey artillery has also struck #SDF positions - intriguingly leading to an #SAA death. ImageImage
Beyond the tensions that #SDF conscription has caused within Arab-majority communities, the financial implications are of particular significance.

The last I heard 3 weeks ago, the #AANES has 300,000+ people on the payroll (civilian & armed) -- and revenue is shrinking, fast.
The U.S -- first under #Obama, then #Trump & now #Biden -- positioned the #SDF not just as the frontline vs. #ISIS, but also as a rival to #Assad's regime.

To match that expectation, the #SDF needed to grow & achieve Arab balance -- BUT we're now actively removing its revenue.
Read 7 tweets
1 Jun
.@frontlinepbs's documentary on #HTS leader Abu Mohammed al-Jolani begins at 10pm EST tonight -- it's already caused shockwaves in the jihadist world.

I've been studying #HTS (& its predecessors) & Jolani's leadership for 10yrs -- the story has profound analytical implications. Image
@frontlinepbs Few could have imagined in 2012-13 that Jolani's Jabhat al-Nusra would years later have a new name & be speaking in quasi nationalist tones; running a semi-technocratic "govt"; proactively engaging w. international NGOs & media; & seeking to establish dialogue w. Western govts.
@frontlinepbs The path between '12 Nusra & '21 #HTS is complex & strewn with inter-factional conflict; vicious internal strife; geopolitical manipulation; and above all, the impact of #Syria's nationwide uprising.

In breaking from #AlQaeda, #Jolani sparked a massive intra-jihadist debate.
Read 32 tweets
3 May
I'd be remiss if I didn't add that this move - described by @charlie_savage as "#Trump's secret rules" - was praised by several then-#ISIS-focused USG officials now serving as #Biden appointees.

This isn't an entirely partisan issue.
@charlie_savage #pt: Speaking at @MiddleEastInst
in July '17, @brett_mcgurk (now in @JoeBiden's NSC) said #Trump had introduced "key changes... that've made key differences..."

- "We've adopted a campaign of annihilation... a surround, constrict & annihilate strategy."

@charlie_savage @MiddleEastInst @brett_mcgurk @JoeBiden #pt: There's little/no debate across the partisan divide about the costs associated with "collateral damage" in CT strikes - BUT there *is* an active bipartisan debate about where to draw the line of risk under certain conditions.

The scale of the D-#ISIS campaign drew that out.
Read 6 tweets
21 Apr
BREAKING - reports of explosions heard near #Jerusalem, #Beersheeba, #Dimona & multiple other locations amid rocket sirens in #Israel.

Security sources say #IAJ jets have been “scrambled.”
#pt: Some sources say a rocket or missile may have been intercepted near #Dimona, #Israel.

Others say residences near the area shook during the explosion.
Security sources in #Israel seem unanimous that no rockets crossed from #Gaza, so all eyes on the #Syria border.

Claims of a Patriot interception would suggest a larger-than-normal projectile, so suspicion may fall onto #Iran#Dimona is home to #Israel’s nuclear facility.
Read 8 tweets
31 Mar
If you read between the lines, this means #Assad's economy was doing OK when #ISIS controlled the oil fields, but when the #SDF took them, the regime suffered.

That's quite an admission -- so perhaps the documented & sanctioned oil trade between #ISIS & #Assad really mattered!
Just in case the tweets are deleted, here they are...

More broadly, #Assad's regime lost control of almost all its oil in 2014 -- 3yrs before this 'game-changing' moment cited from 2017.

In truth, @joshua_landis
& George Saghir are making a political, not analytical statement.
@joshua_landis If you want to be analytical (& truthful), take a look at the evolution of #Syria's economy -- like this chart by @Karam__Shaar shows.

Now, does October 2017 look like a game-changing moment? No.

Does the start of #Lebanon's banking crisis? Irrefutably, yes.
Read 4 tweets
30 Mar
NEW -- Donors at #SyriaConf2021 have pledged a total of $6.4bn.

That's an enormous $3.6bn short of what the @UN needs to meet the increasing humanitarian needs in #Syria.
@UN A few more pledges for #Syria:

#EU: $657m
#Saudi: $560m
#Sweden: $97m
#Italy: $52m
#UAE: $30m

And a note on the $6.4bn total -- that's multi-year pledges. For 2021 alone, the figure is $4.2bn, less than half of what's needed.
Read 4 tweets
30 Mar
Very interesting -- ahead of the D-#ISIS Small Group meeting, @aawsat_News says the coalition is considering expanding policy to include combating #ISIS in areas controlled by the #Assad-#Russia-#Iran alliance, which it says has "failed" to defeat #ISIS.

aawsat.com/node/2887216
@aawsat_News It's been clear for a long time that #ISIS's resurgence, particularly in #Syria's central 'Badiya' desert was (a) sustainable & (b) eventually going to spillover into @CJTFOIR/#SDF areas on the eastern side of the #Euphrates.

We can sit & watch, or act.

@aawsat_News @CJTFOIR The @aawsat_News report says the D-#ISIS Coalition is working on a public statement in which 2 areas of pro-#Assad control -- the (1) Badiya & (2) #Syria-#Iraq border region -- could become areas of [aerial] @CJTFOIR operation.

The border is critical for logistics, finance etc.
Read 8 tweets