A recent Channel 4 documentary shed a new and damning light on the conflict in Sri Lanka between government forces and the Tamil Tigers in 2009. Among the many accusations made is the use of child soldiers by the Tamil Tigers. Although this is banned under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) it seems to be tragically synonymous with many conflicts throughout the world, despite the growing body of laws prohibiting such action. At the turn of the millennium, the UN reported that 36 countries were involved in conflict which utilise child soldiers. Seventeen of those conflicts saw the sovereign state itself employing children to fight. This trend has not subsided since the report was published.
The ongoing conflict in Somalia has largely been ignored by the Western world. Since the 1991 overthrow of the oppressive regime of President Siad Barre, intense fighting between Somali warlords and their respective clans has left the country in a state of almost constant war. Al-Shabaab, whilst the largest and most active, is by no means the only Islamic extremist group fighting against the forces of the AU. Although the UN is unwilling to commit troops or materiel in support of the AU on the ground, the Western world and the US in particular remain concerned by the recent and substantial gains made by al-Shabaab and its affiliated organisations.Absent a centralised form of government for twenty years, the country is ensnared in a cycle of unrelenting violence that has accounted for the deaths of up to a million Somalis, with a further quarter of a million having been displaced as a direct result of the violence.
As South Sudan meets its date with history on 9 July, the battle over Abyei, the disputed town at the border of Sudan and Southern Sudan, threatens to scuttle the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005. South Kordofan, another border area, has also registered conflict and citizen displacement recently, thereby increasing the anticipation of the historic independence of South Sudan on 9 July. Abyei, the epicenter of the painful divorce, flared up on 21 May 2011 with an estimated 50,000 residents fleeing the border town after a Khartoum government-supported army attacked the Dinka Ngok residents while facilitating an influx of the nomadic Misseriya into the area. This was the North’s bid to change the demographics of the town before the Abyei referendum and 9 July 2011 split, according to UN field reports. The invasion has been likened to the earlier janjaweed invasion sponsored by the Khartoum government in the Darfur region.
The six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the only major international association that has neither the US nor any US ally among its members, marked its 10th anniversary on 15 June with a lavish summit in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana with leaders from Iran, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, and Mongolia attending as observers. According to many Eurasian analysts, the gathering was a "sober, introspective occasion" which charted out "a course" for the future evolution of the organisation. There are signs that it is becoming increasingly influential with its multi-tiered consultative mechanisms becoming operational. This is evident, for example, in the case of the Tashkent-based regional anti-terrorism centre which has succeeded in foiling over 500 terrorist plots.
CIA Director Leon Panetta is currently engaged in the latest round of talks in Islamabad, arriving the day after the head of the Pakistani Army, General Ashfaq Kayani, attempted to win back some respect from the Pakistani population by urging the US to divert some of its US$3 billion-a-year aid to “help the common man” while also advocating a forceful re-assertion of Pakistan’s sovereignty. These concerns would be heartening if they were not so transparent. Kayani’s concern for the “common man” must have been conspicuously absent when arming his 500,000 man army using American aid dollars.
Simply put, terrorists are people who have made the decision to use violence for political purposes. Like the majority of other members of contemporary societies, they use a whole range of available electronic devices in their daily lives. For those tracking and hunting them, such as law enforcement and intelligence agencies, this providesa fertile area of investigation and enquiry as they attempt to gather sufficient intelligence and evidence to prevent violence and protect the public.
On 7 June 1981, Iraq’s nuclear programme suffered a literal blow when its nuclear reactor in Osirak was levelled to the ground. Almost immediately after the operation, Israel admitted to orchestrating the attack to protect its citizens from a potential nuclear threat. Osirak was the first practical demonstration of what came to be known as the Begin Doctrine, named after Menachem Begin, the then Israeli Prime Minister, who ordered the 1981 attack.