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"US Ends Saudi Mid-Air Refueling Support for Yemen War"


Die USA wollen saudi-arabische Kampfflugzeuge in Jemen vorerst nicht mehr durch eine Betankung in der Luft unterstützen. Die Maßnahme wird von Experten als Teil der "begrenzten Bestrafung" der Saudis in der Khashoggi-Affäre betrachtet. "Defense Secretary James Mattis downplayed the news, however, and made no mention of previous demands for a ceasefire. Instead, he said the US will continue to support the Saudi war in Yemen, and 'collaborate on building up legitimate Yemeni forces.' The timing, however, is telling. This comes just two weeks after the US demanded a halt to Saudi strikes against populated parts of Yemen, and after several subsequent attacks on populated areas killing civilians."

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"Syrian Observatory: US Has Killed Over 3,000 Civilians in Syria Since 2014"


Einer neuen Schätzung des Syrian Observatory for Human Rights zufolge sind bei den Militäreinsätzen der USA in Syrien seit 2014 über 3.000 Zivilisten getötet worden. "The current estimate is 3,222 civilians killed by the US in that period of time. This includes scores of civilians killed in the 24 hour period Friday and Saturday during which US airstrikes pounded an ISIS held town in the far east. The US insisted the mosque they blew up was a legitimate military target, but substantial numbers of civilian victims were reported. The death toll spans several provinces, but overwhelmingly is the result of the US supporting the invasion of ISIS-held cities and towns with heavy aerial bombardment. Those strikes caused massive damage and killed a lot of bystanders."

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"Afghan High Peace Council Says Talk of US Troop Withdrawal Is Premature"


Die Gespräche zwischen Vertretern der US-Regierung und der Taliban werden vom Hohen Friedensrat (HPC) der afghanischen Regierung Jason Ditz zufolge mit Misstrauen beobachtet. "Over the weekend, the Taliban suggested progress is being made on a peace effort with the US in Afghanistan. Most significantly, they confirmed that the US has agreed to talks centering on withdrawing US troops from the country. That’s not sitting well with the idea of the Afghan High Peace Council, which has issued a statement saying any talk of foreign troops leaving is 'premature' and that they believe Taliban calls are only for propaganda value. The High Peace Council was established in 2010 and was intended to negotiate with the Taliban. So far they’ve had limited involvement, and now seem eager to undermine US-Taliban talks."

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"Turkey Backed Rebels Refuse to Withdraw in Syria’s Idlib"


Die Umsetzung des russisch-türkischen Plans zur Bildung einer demilitarisierten Zone in der syrischen Idlib-Provinz bleibt Jason Ditz zufolge offen, nachdem die von Ankara unterstützte Rebellengruppe Fallaq al-Sham den Abzug aus der Zone abgelehnt hat. "Fallaq al-Sham argues that they need to keep their fighters in the demilitarized zone to 'repel any treason' against them. Turkey has likewise been unable to get any of the other jihadist rebels to agree to a withdrawal. Interestingly, many media reports claimed that Fallaq al-Sham had actually started its withdrawal, though in reality they’d only moved from a few locations in the neighboring Aleppo Province. That, combined with the statement ruling out Idlib pullouts, is hardly an endorsement of the plan."

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"Netherlands Ends Funding for Syria White Helmets, Citing Suspicious Actions"


Die niederländische Regierung hat beschlossen, die Finanzhilfen für mehrere Gruppen in Syrien, darunter auch für die Weißhelme, einzustellen. "The White Helmets were recipients of 12.5 million Euros from the Netherlands. Styling themselves as a 'civil defense' force with no ties to foreign governments, the White Helmets actually receive substantially funding from several Western nations, including the US, Britain, and until now, the Netherlands. Netherlands officials warned that there is inadequate supervision of the White Helmets, and the lack of transparency on the flow of cash to the group, as well as how it is spent, raises substantial risk that the aid money may fall into the hands of terrorist groups."

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"Saudi Warplanes Attack Yemen Bus Station, Killing at Least 20 Civilians"


Bei einem saudi-arabischen Luftangriff in Jemen sind Berichten zufolge erneut mindestens 20 Zivilisten, darunter offenbar viele Kinder, getötet worden. "Last month, Saudi warplanes attacked a busload of school children in northern Yemen, killing scores of them. The strike used a US-provided bomb, and led to major Congressional moves to limit involvement in the war. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on Wednesday, signed off on Saudi activities, bypassing Congressional limits. Having dodged a bullet in avoiding Congressional attempts to halt US aid, the Saudis clearly haven’t learned anything, however, as on Thursday, Saudi warplanes attacked a bus station in the port city of Hodeidah, killing at least 20 civilians, mostly children."

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"Turkey Sends Troops, Tanks to Syria’s Idlib to 'Deter' an Offensive"


Die Türkei will eine Offensive syrischer Regierungstruppen in der Idlib-Provinz durch die Entsendung weiterer Truppen in das Nachbarland doch noch verhindern. "Turkish officials announced Wednesday that they sent hundreds of additional special forces, along with tanks, armored vehicles, and other equipment, across the border into Syria’s Idlib Province. They are intended to reinforce Turkish military posts in northern Syria. Turkish officials say that the intention is to deter the Syrian military from launching an offensive against the Idlib Province, which is under the control of various Islamist rebel factions, the largest of which is al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front. Turkey is aligned with some of these fighters in supporting regime change in Syria."

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"Huge Casualties Reported as Taliban Escalates Attacks Across North Afghanistan"


Afghanische Regierungstruppen haben bei Kämpfen gegen die Taliban im Norden des Landes Berichten zufolge weitere schwere Verluste hinnehmen müssen. "A large number of attacks over the weekend in Afghanistan has only grown worse as of Monday, with reports of districts falling in several parts of the country’s north, and the Afghan military suffering 'huge casualties' in the fighting. After heavy fighting in Baghlan, the Taliban is now moving into Jawzjan and Sar-e Pul, leading provincial officials to warn that a collapse is imminent without reinforcements, and substantial territory could fall to the Taliban very soon. All of this has the Afghan parliament standing up and taking notice, but their ability to get any information out of the security chiefs is in serious question, as the ministers of Defense and Interior, along with the NDS chief, refused a parliamentary summons Monday to discuss the situation."

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"Trump Commits US to ‘Indefinite’ Military Presence in Syria"


Jason Ditz berichtet, dass US-Präsident Trump einer neuen Syrien-Strategie zugestimmt habe, die neben der Zerschlagung des IS auch die Verdrängung des Irans zum Ziel hat. Der zuvor in Aussicht gestellte Abzug der US-Truppen sei damit in weite Ferne gerückt. "US troops are in several parts of Syria, mostly in the Kurdish-held northeast. An estimated 2,200 US troops are in Syria, though official numbers are being withheld from the public. Special Envoy James Jeffrey said the old plan was to leave Syria by year’s end, but now the troops are committed to an 'indefinitely extended' stay. The new goals are substantial as well, with the US now focusing on forcing Iran out of Syria and 'enduring defeat' for ISIS. Jeffrey says the US is 'not in a hurry' and that Trump is now on board with this idea."

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"US Strategy in Syria: 'Create Quagmires Until We Get What We Want'"


Die US-Regierung habe kein Interesse an einer schnellen Beendigung des Kriegs in Syrien, solange sie keinen entscheidenden Einfluss auf die Zukunft des Landes ausüben könne, schreibt Jason Ditz. "In 2013, top Obama Administration officials described their policy in the Syrian War as one of keeping the war going. The administration wanted a big seat at the table for a political settlement, which officials clarified meant ensuring that the war kept going so that there was never a clear victor. The Trump Administration seems to be slipping into that same destructive set of priorities in Syria. The Washington Post this week quoted an unnamed Administration official as saying that 'right now, our job is to help create quagmires [for Russia and the Syrian regime] until we get what we want.' (...) It is this desire that has the US repeatedly threatening Syria and warning them not to attack Idlib. It is this desire that is sparking almost daily US threats to intervene militarily if the Idlib offensive involves chemical weapons. Most importantly, it is this desire that has Russia very much believing media reports that the rebels could 'stage' a fake chemical attack just to suck the US into the war, and be fairly confident it would work."

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"UN Report Details War Crimes by Saudis, UAE in Yemen War"


Ein neuer UN-Bericht wirft beiden Seiten des Konflikts in Jemen Menschenrechtsverletzungen und mögliche Kriegsverbrechen vor. Jason Ditz macht besonders auf die Vorwürfe gegen die von Saudi-Arabien angeführte Militärkoalition aufmerksam. "The report noted Saudi and UAE forces killed thousands of civilians in airstrikes, tortured detainees, raped civilians, and used child soldiers as young as eight. The two nations repeatedly hit residential areas and there is 'little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimize civilian casualties.' The UN report also made note of the “no strike list” of 30,000 civilian sites in Yemen, including refugee camps and hospitals. Officials found the Saudi-led forces failed to consult their own list time and again during airstrikes. The UN report largely mirrors last week’s report from Human Rights Watch, which likewise found that the Saudi-led coalition had failed to stop violations of human rights, and was carrying out investigations that lacked any credibility."

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"Russia Announces Largest War Games Since Soviet Era"


Das russische Verteidigungsministerium plant Jason Ditz zufolge, im September in Sibirien das größte Militärmanöver seit dem Kollaps der Sowjetunion durchzuführen. "The Vostok exercise will be held in Siberia, and will include multiple nations, including China and Mongolia. The exercise is expected to involve as many as 150,000 soldiers world-wide. The overwhelming majority will of course be Russian troops. The inclusion of China is seen as a major confidence-building measure, as previous Vostok exercises were seen as preparation for a potential land war with China. Clearly, that would not be the case if the Chinese are invited to participate."

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"Syrian Govt Calls on Refugees to Return Home"


Die syrische Regierung hat die über fünf Millionen international verstreuten Flüchtlinge zur Rückkehr aufgefordert, da die "Terroristen" in vielen Gebieten weitgehend besiegt seien. "Looking at a map, this makes sense. The ISIS caliphate is gone. The rebels are expelled from metro Damascus, and almost all of the south. The rebels still have territory in Syria’s southwest tip, and in Idlib and Aleppo Province, but that’s virtually all. Several years of bloody wars, and heavy shelling and airstrikes in major cities don’t make returning home all that easy for many, however. The displaced are likely to find the homes damaged, ransacked, or destroyed outright."

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"US Won’t Intervene as Syria Strikes Rebels in Southwest"


Das US-Militär habe bereits klargestellt, dass es die Rebellengruppen im Süden Syriens bei den neuen Kämpfen gegen die Regierungstruppen nicht aktiv unterstützen wird, berichtet Jason Ditz. "Though the rebel groups are fairly small in this area, they’ve long been backed by the US. US Ambassador Nikki Haley is still railing against the planned offensive, and saying everything that happens will be Russia’s fault. But they’re also telling the FSA that their plans and decisions should not be based on any expectation of a US military intervention on their behalf. (...) Expecting a massive fight and heavier airstrikes, thousands of civilians are already on the move, fleeing the areas that look to be the early parts of such a push. Some are going deeper into the rebel territory, but many are just fleeing to the Jordanian border, hoping to wait the fighting out in relative safety."

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"Iran: European Proposals Not Enough to Save Nuclear Deal"


Die bisherigen europäischen Vorschläge sind nach Ansicht des iranischen Atomchefs Ali Akbar Salehi nicht ausreichend, um das internationale Atomabkommen ohne die USA zu retten. Jason Ditz meint, dass die Aussage Salehis als Teil der laufenden Verhandlungen betrachtet werden könne. "The EU has promised to block the US sanctions with respect to European companies, though some that were previously doing business with Iran, like Total S.A. and Siemens, have said they are going to stop doing business with Iran anyhow, fearing US punishment. Iranian officials have said they will only remain in the deal so long as it benefits them. They have sought assurances of access to international trade, including financing of projects by European banks, and the ability to continue selling oil on the international market. European nations may ultimately offer that, and Iran hasn’t set any deadline for getting more out of the remaining parties in the deal. This means Iran never really has to say they are satisfied with what is being offered, and can always angle for a bit more. So long as they remain in the deal, they have ample time."

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"French Special Forces on the Ground in Yemen"


Der französischen Zeitung Le Figaro zufolge hat die Regierung in Paris Spezialeinheiten nach Jemen geschickt. "France’s Defense Ministry is not commenting specifically on the special forces report, but did deny that any French troops are present in Hodeidah port. They also insisted that the French military is not part of the Saudi-led coalition attacking Yemen. The French government has not formally commented on ever having sent troops to Yemen in the first place. Earlier this week, French officials suggested they were open to demining operations in Hodeidah, but only after the Saudi-led forces finishing conquering it. It is interesting, however, that the French have been making so many statements denying involvement in the Saudi-led coalition, when it turns out they do have ground troops active in Yemen, embedded with the Emiratis, themselves top coalition members."

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"Russian military spending falls, could affect operations: think-tank"


Jason Ditz schreibt, dass die russischen Militärausgaben dem neuen SIPRI-Bericht zufolge im Jahr 2017 relativ deutlich zurückgegangen seien, während die USA mehr als ein Drittel der globalen Rüstungsausgaben auf sich vereinten. "In March, Russia announced that over the next five years they plan to cut their overall military spending to less than 3% of their national GDP. That means substantial further cuts in the next few years, and will likely mean multiple additional nations will pass them in military spending. Russia remains a substantial military power even with the cuts, of course. The general trend toward cuts shows that they aren’t envisioning large overseas entanglements, or the sort of World War 3 type of invasions that some NATO military figures have claimed. Russia is clearly moving toward a more defensive footing, and pocketing the savings."

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"Turkey Warns France That Sending Troops to Syria Would Be an 'Invasion'"


Der französische Präsident Macron hat den Kurden im Norden Syriens Berichten zufolge seine Unterstützung zugesichert. Eine mögliche Entsendung französischer Truppen in die von Kurden gehaltene Stadt Manbij wäre nach Ansicht der Türkei allerdings eine völkerrechtswidrige "Invasion". Jason Ditz kommentiert: "Since Syria has yet to approve a French deployment, that may well be the case. Turkey, however, is the wrong nation to be making such allegations, in as much as they are in the process of invading Syria already. Indeed, France’s deployment was, if reports are to be believed, being ordered specifically to counter the Turkish invasion. Turkish DM Nurettin Canikli warned the French deployment would be a 'calamitous step,' and that it would be in violation of international law. Other Turkish officials have suggested in recent days that Turkish troops would target the French forces in Manbij. While President Macron’s office is now denying that any troops are headed to Manbij, France has historical ties to Syria, which would make sending forces to resist the Turkish invasion relatively unsurprising."

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"US-South Korea Spring War Games to Be Scaled Back This Year"


Der Umfang der bevorstehenden Militärmanöver amerikanischer und südkoreanischer Truppen soll vor dem Hintergrund der aktuellen diplomatischen Initiativen reduziert werden, berichtet Jason Ditz. "The Foal Eagle exercise is to last for only four weeks, and had previously been expected to extend deep into May, as the nations usually have the exercise take closer to two months. Key Resolve, the mostly computerized exercise, will begin in mid-April and last just two weeks, meaning everything will be finished before May. This timing decision was likely to have been made because of upcoming Trump-Kim talks, which are not dated yet, but are planned to happen 'by May.' Holding such talks amid US war games would be very difficult, so likely the summit itself will be shortly thereafter, in May."

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"Clean Break to Dirty Wars"


Dan Sanchez schreibt, dass die intellektuellen Wurzeln der neokonservativen Politik, die zu den heutigen Konflikten und "schmutzigen Kriegen" im Nahen Osten geführt habe, in der Studie "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" aus dem Jahr 1995 gefunden werden könnten. Experten wie Richard Perle und Douglas Feith hätten der israelischen Regierung damals empfohlen, für einen Erfolg im Kampf gegen die Hisbollah in Libanon eine Friedensstrategie gegenüber der Türkei und Jordanien sowie eine Konfrontationsstrategie gegenüber Irak, Syrien und Iran zu verfolgen. "Before setting Israel and the US on a warpath that would ultimately set the Middle East ablaze, the Clean Break authors were basically saying: Not through peace accords will the great questions of the day be decided - that was the great mistake of 1978 (at Camp David) and 1993 (at Oslo) -  but by 'divide and conquer' and regime change. By wars both aggressive ('preemptive') and 'dirty' (covert and proxy). (...) 9/11 paved the way for realizing the Clean Break, using the United States as a gigantic proxy, thanks to the Israel Lobby’s massive influence in Congress and the neocons’ newly won dominance in the Bush Administration."

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