The recent Iranian proxy drone attack on Erbil International Airport was likely a stand-alone event and likely does not indicate the immediate resumption of large-scale Iranian proxy attacks on US facilities in Iraq. Iranian proxy militants launched two drones targeting what Iran assessed to be an Israeli intelligence asset at Erbil International Airport in Iraqi Kurdistan on September 11, 2021, possibly triggering an Israeli retaliatory strike on a proxy convoy in Abu Kamal, Syria, on September 14. Iran may have approved this attack after US and Israeli political and military leaders met in recent weeks to discuss their strategies for addressing the threat Iran poses to US, Israeli, and regional security. The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 New York terrorist attacks may have influenced the timing of the attack. Iran will likely maintain its ban on large-scale attacks on US facilities in Iraq until after Iraq’s October 10 elections and possibly until the end of 2021 unless the Iran-Israel escalation cycle spills further into Iraq.
Russia and Belarus conducted a joint strategic exercise in September 2021 that provides essential insight into the evolving capabilities of the Russian and Belarusian militaries. The exercise advanced the Kremlin's ongoing campaign to cement its control of the Belarusian military.
Through wargaming, the PLA aspires to achieve an edge in military competition, seeking to “design” the dynamics of and develop capabilities for future warfare.
Turkey is evaluating the changing security environment and the emerging Taliban government to strike a minimal-risk balance between Ankara’s ambitions and constraints. Turkey evacuated its troops from Afghanistan on August 27 after months-long negotiations with US and Taliban representatives to retain a security role in the country after NATO’s departure. However, Turkish officials are still signaling their intent to adopt a political and security role in Afghanistan and to become the Taliban’s primary interlocutor with the West.The Turkish government will likely remain committed to playing a stabilizing role in Afghanistan—primarily through non-military channels—to promote its international standing as an influential regional power.
The Kremlin deployed S-300 air defense systems to Belarus in late August 2021, advancing a longstanding Kremlin campaign to establish a permanent Russian military presence in Belarus postured against NATO’s eastern flank. This deployment increases Russian military capabilities to contest strategic airspace between the Baltic states and mainland Europe. The Kremlin seeks to degrade NATO's ability to defend the Baltics. Russian military personnel, as opposed to Belarusian personnel, will likely operate these S-300 systems. Elements of Russia’s 210th Air Defense Regiment arrived in Grodno, on the Belarusian border with Lithuania, on August 28. The Belarusian Ministry of Defense (MoD) stated this deployment supports the permanent joint Russian-Belarusian air defense and air combat training center in Grodno that Moscow and Minsk agreed to create in March 2021. The Belarusian MoD did not connect this deployment to preparations for Russia’s annual strategic exercise Zapad-2021, which will occur in Belarus and western Russia from September 10 to 16. ISW first warned about the threat of Russian air defense deployments to Belarus in August 2020.
Peter Mills is an Afghanistan Researcher at the Institute for the Study of War. Peter received his B.A. in International Relations and Economics, with a concentration in the Middle East and Peace and Security studies, at the University of California, Davis. Peter obtained an M.A. in International Political Economy from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies while studying Arabic. He wrote his capstone on Chinese grand strategy and its influence on its policy towards the Middle East.
General David H. Petraeus (US Army, Retired) and Vance Serchuk speak with ISW Founder and President Dr. Kimberly Kagan on the dangers of the US deal with the Taliban.
General Keane (Ret.) recounts his experiences on the day of the 9/11 attack and gives his perspectives on the ensuing 19 years of war.
Frederick W. Kagan, director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, and General David H. Petraeus sit down to discuss the US-Taliban agreement.