At least two Russian aircraft violated Turkish airspace during bombing runs this week, while an unidentified aircraft harassed two Turkish F-16s by locking its radar on the Turks for five minutes. NATO is demanding an explanation, calling the violations “irresponsible and dangerous.”
The Russian aircraft are part of Moscow’s intensifying airstrike campaign against rebel forces in northwestern Syria in support of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. The overflights into Turkey reflect the tight working conditions of the theatre and were meant to soften up rebel positions in preparation for a looming loyalist attack, bolstered by Iranian, Hezbollah and Russian ground forces.
Further east, the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz is in its tenth day of fighting as the Afghan National Army (ANA) attempts to expel Taliban forces. The militants attacked the city earlier this month after the group confirmed a new leader. The overall competency of the ANA is under question after the attack.
However, during the fighting a US AC-130 gunship responded to a request for fire support by targeting a trauma hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières. More than 20 people were killed. US commanders say its special forces personnel were fighting with ANA troops near the hospital, but the ANA called in the airstrike. The attack is a strategic disaster for the larger US campaign.
And after more than ten years of meticulous negotiations, 12 countries of the Pacific Rim struck a deal on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The deal aims to regulate rules and trading process across the Asia Pacific region.
The deal is a major jewel in US President Barack Obama’s strategy of an “Asia Pivot” to rebalance US focus away from the Middle East and towards the Asia Pacific. The US wants to reassure its allies in Southeast Asia of its continued commitment and ensure China doesn’t gain a preponderance in the region. But Mr Obama faces a tough final year in office as the political fight to ratify the TPP heats up.