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Geopolitics

At Least 31 Dead In Damascus Car Bomb Near Assad HQ, Russian Embassy

SYRIAN OBSERVATORY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, BBC NEWS (UK), AP

Worldcrunch

DAMASCUS - A series of bombings in Syria’s capital Thursday has killed at least 31 people, among them children and civilians. A car bomb struck the heavy-populated central Damascus district of Mazraa, near the headquarters of Syria’s ruling Baath party and the Russian Embassy.

I used to walk over this bridge almost every day. Between Mazra'a and Adawi in #Damascus. Aftermath of car bomb. twitter.com/NMSyria/status…

— NMSyria (@NMSyria) 21 février 2013

Syrian state-TV footage of the scene showed at least four lifeless bodies. Reports on casualties include children injured at a nearby school in the residential district of the capital. State media blamed the huge explosion on "terrorists" battling the regime.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in the country, reports that a car bomb exploded near security checkpoints between the Russian Embassy and the headquarters of President Bashar Assad’s party – which comes as Russia and the Arab League have announced they want to broker direct government-opposition talks.

A second blast was reported in Damascus’ northeastern Barzeh neighborhood, a security official told the Associated Press, while eyewitnesses and pro-government TV reported several other potential blasts.

pro govt Adunya TV says 4 explosions rocked #Damascus, ALthwra str,rukneldin, Barze & Sabee Bahrat square, dozens of civilians killed #syria

— Rula Amin (@RulaAmin) 21 février 2013

The violence comes as the opposition Syrian National Coalition is due to begin a two-day meeting in Egypt to discuss a framework for a possible solution to the Syrian war, BBC News reports.

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Geopolitics

Smaller Allies Matter: Afghanistan Offers Hard Lessons For Ukraine's Future

Despite controversies at home, Nordic countries were heavily involved in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. As the Ukraine war grinds on, lessons from that conflict are more relevant than ever.

Photo of Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Johannes Jauhiainen

-Analysis-

HELSINKI — In May 2021, the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan after 20 years of international presence, astronomical sums of development aid and casualties on all warring sides.

As Kabul fell, a chaotic evacuation prompted comparisons to the fall of Saigon — and most of the attention was on the U.S., which had led the original war to unseat the Taliban after 9/11 and remained by far the largest foreign force on the ground. Yet, the fall of Kabul was also a tumultuous and troubling experience for a number of other smaller foreign countries who had been presented for years in Afghanistan.

In an interview at the time, Antti Kaikkonen, the Finnish Minister of Defense, tried to explain what went wrong during the evacuation.

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“Originally we anticipated that the smaller countries would withdraw before the Americans. Then it became clear that getting people to the airport had become more difficult," Kaikkonen said. "So we decided last night to bring home our last soldiers who were helping with the evacuation.”

During the 20-year-long Afghan war, the foreign troop presence included many countries:Finland committed around 2,500 soldiers,Sweden 8,000,Denmark 12,000 and Norway 9,000. And in the nearly two years since the end of the war, Finland,Belgium and theNetherlands have commissioned investigations into their engagements in Afghanistan.

As the number of fragile or failed states around the world increases, it’s important to understand how to best organize international development aid and the security of such countries. Twenty years of international engagement in Afghanistan offers valuable lessons.

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