Dozens of Afghan Air Force aircraft flown out of Afghanistan

by Tim Ripley

More than 40 Afghan Air Force (AAF) aircraft have been flown to Uzbekistan to prevent them from falling in the hands of the Taliban after the group regain control over Afghanistan on 15 August.

The arrival of the platforms at Termez Airport in southern Uzbekistan was reported by local media on 16 August, with commercial satellite imagery of the site subsequently confirming the relocation of a significant part of the AAF's fleet. Nearly 600 Afghans were reported as being aboard the aircraft and to be seeking asylum in Uzbekistan.

An Afghan Air Force (AAF) A-29B Super Tucano light attack aircraft. More than 40 AAF aircraft have been flown to Uzbekistan to prevent them from falling in the hands of the Taliban after the group regain control over Afghanistan on 15 August. (USAF 438th Air Expeditionary Wing)

An Afghan Air Force (AAF) A-29B Super Tucano light attack aircraft. More than 40 AAF aircraft have been flown to Uzbekistan to prevent them from falling in the hands of the Taliban after the group regain control over Afghanistan on 15 August. (USAF 438th Air Expeditionary Wing)

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UK Defence Budget: Still a balancing act

On the opening day of DSEI 2021, taking place at London’s ExCeL centre, Ana Popescu, lead analyst for European budgets at Janes explores the current status of Europe’s largest defence spender….

The UK is Europe’s largest defence market, with the country’s defence industrial base featuring world-class capabilities across most domains. It continues to be a major force in global export markets, with UK government figures indicating that orders of GBP80 billion were achieved between 2011 and 2019.  Its defence and security strategy is underpinned by a government commitment to maintain defence spending at 2% of GDP or higher.  

Out with the old, in with the new: UK government expresses support for defence but cuts still on the horizon for older capabilities 

After the 2008 crisis, the UK defence budget was cut in real terms for five consecutive years. As a result, Janes interconnected industry intelligence highlights that the UK’s defence budget fell from 2.5% of GDP in 2010 to 2% by 2015. Increases following that were relatively small, 2-4% in nominal terms. This means the real value in 2020, when accounting for inflation, was less than 0.5% higher than the 2016 one. Moreover, the Ministry of Defence’s annual Equipment Plan which is the Department’s forecast budget to cover the costs of procurement and support of military equipment for the next decade had been running with a deficit for years. The UK MoD entered 2020 with a shortfall between GBP2.9 and GBP13 billion over 2019-2029, according to its own estimates. 

That said, in November 2020 Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced additional funds for military expenditure, with UK defence spending seeing a significant nominal increase of around 12% in 2021, bringing the budget up to GPB50.6 billion, or USD68 billion in real terms according to Janes data. This is followed by much smaller nominal increases averaging 0.7% for the following three years, which translates to real cuts of 1.5% over the same time.

Johnson’s announcement was also notable as Defence was one of the few cabinet departments given the certainty of a multi-year spending package. This marks a difference from the previous decades, throughout which successive governments announced their support for defence, but other political and economic issues, particularly UK’s exit from the European Union, took precedence.

Nonetheless, the boost in spending may prove less impactful than initially hoped. At the same time as the budget increase, Prime Minister Boris Johnson also announced the creation of a new National Cyber Force, a new Autonomy Development Centre and  RAF Space Command, making it clear that the new funds would not be allocated just to funding the existing gap in the MoD’s budget.

Indeed, the UK’s Defence Command Paper released 22 March this year made it clear that cuts are to be made, as the MoD looks to reconcile shifting strategic priorities with new technologies and the ever-present need to balance its books. Nonetheless, the defence increase announced in November last year marks an important and much needed step in UK’s journey to establishing its role outside the European Union and cementing its position as the second biggest spender in NATO.


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20 years after 9/11: The evolving transnational militant Islamist threat landscape

by Janes Terrorism and Insurgency Centre

Two decades have now passed since Al-Qaeda militants targeted the United States mainland on 11 September 2001. Since the attacks, the fight against transnational militant Islamism has dominated security agendas in the US, Europe, and beyond, costing the US alone over USD 5.4 trillion and claiming the lives of more than 7,000 US military personnel globally. Despite these costs, the threat from militant Islamism has persisted – and indeed proliferated – since September 2001. At this 20-year mark, Janes Terrorism & Insurgency Centre (JTIC) data offers insights on past trends and future forecasts for transnational militant Islamist activity.

Operational trends

Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State represent the most active transnational militant Islamist groups since 2001. According to JTIC data, these groups and their affiliates conducted at least 27,258 attacks between 2009 and 2020, resulting in over 61,124 non-militant fatalities. These attacks have largely targeted conflict theatres in the Middle East – with more than two-thirds of attacks taking place in Syria and Iraq – as well as in East Africa and West Africa. Transnational Islamist violence has targeted security forces in over half of all attacks, and militants have demonstrated a tactical preference for close-quarters engagement between forces on open ground and stand-off/area attacks involving explosives or indirect fire attacks.


When comparing the operational profiles of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda has conducted far fewer attacks and its tempo of violence has been steadier than that of its rival. Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyya (West Africa province) was the Islamic State’s most operationally active affiliate in 2020, while Harakat al-Shabaab al- Mujahideen was the Al-Qaeda affiliate that conducted the most attacks in that year. At least 127 inter-group clashes between Islamic State and Al-Qaeda forces were recorded between 2009 and 2020, with the majority taking place in Syria in 2014 and 2015. With 37 lone actor attacks recorded between 2009 and 2020, JTIC data indicates that the Islamic State inspired far more of these attacks than Al-Qaeda, and that most of this activity has been conducted in Europe with edged or improvised weapons.

Regional forecasts

Based on JTIC data for the first half of 2021, JTIC presents the following regional forecasts for the remainder of 2021:

Lake Chad/Sahel: Attacks and non-militant fatalities are likely to increase because of factors including the 24 May coup in Mali, drawdown of French military forces, the death of Chadian President Idris Déby, and the likely reconciliation of dissident and mainstream factions of Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyya after the death of dissident leader Abubakar Shekau.

Mozambique: A lower tempo of violence is likely to continue in the short term, with Wilayat Wasat Afriqiyya (Central Africa province) attacks having decreased significantly in Cabo Delgado province in early 2021 in contrast to 2020. Smaller-scale raids are likely following the recapture of Mocimboa da Praia by security forces in August, though militants may exploit security gaps after the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) withdrawal in October.

Syria: Islamic State attacks in 2021 appear set to outpace those recorded in 2020, with militants having already conducted 80% of the total number of 2020 attacks in the first half of 2021 alone. Recent operational trends indicate that attacks will continue to target security forces, with an increasing focus on ambush tactics.

Iraq: Islamic State militants are likely to continue to conduct asymmetric, low-casualty attacks in rural areas and – in future summers – will likely continue to exploit high temperatures to disrupt essential services, provoke popular unrest, and undermine the government in Iraq through sabotage attacks.

Policy implications

Counter-terrorism priorities today are starkly different to those immediately after the September 2001 attacks, when there was a surge of counter-terrorism investment in the US, Europe, and beyond. US counter-terrorism activities focused on long-term overseas operations, militarised responses, and leadership decapitation, with a lesser focus on tackling the drivers of militant recruitment and radicalisation. In the early 2020s there has been a marked shift toward reducing military commitments overseas, with US forces withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, and France signalling a drawdown of its military presence in the Sahel. While boots remain on the ground in key conflict zones, the US and its Western partners are increasingly seeking to support, rather than lead, overseas counter-terrorism efforts.

An analysis of security responses since September 2001 offers insights for policy and practice. As the 20-year anniversary of the September 2001 attacks approaches, counter-terrorism professionals face a diversified threat landscape and an expanded set of policy priorities. Despite shrinking counter-terrorism budgets, there is a continued need to support overseas partners to preserve the gains of the last two decades and prevent the emergence of future transnational threats. The last 20 years have signalled that over-reliance on short-term, militarised responses without commitment to strengthening local governance and addressing underlying drivers of radicalisation can limit the effectiveness of security responses. Technological advances and high volumes of open-source information also call for streamlined inter-agency coordination, investment in artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, and continuous monitoring of the threat environment.

This forms the executive summary of our terrorism and insurgency centre's deep dive into the evolving transnational militant Islamist threat landscape. For the full report, subscribers can log in here.

Russia moves equipment away from training ground near Ukrainian border

Video footage and imagery sourced from social media and analysed by Janes between 13 July and 21 July appears to show that Russia has begun to withdraw equipment from a training ground in Voronezh, close to the Ukrainian border.

The equipment, which is assessed by Janes to belong to the Central Military District's 41 st Combined Arms Army, was deployed over thousands of kilometres from central Russia to Voronezh during a buildup of forces in March and April. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed on 22 April that the 41 st Combined Arms Army's equipment would not return to central Russia until after it took part in ‘Zapad-2021', a large-scale Western Military District exercise scheduled to take place in September.

Videos and images analysed by Janes were all captured in the immediate vicinity of Maslovka railway station – one of the primary stations used by Russian forces to deliver equipment to the Pogonovo training ground during the March-April buildup. Two additional stations, Tresvyatskaya and Kolodeznaya, were also used to move equipment into Pogonovo, but as of 21 July Janes has not identified any movement out of these stations.

Videos and images posted to social media by multiple users on13 and 14 July show around 20 T-72-type main battle tanks, BAT-2 engineering vehicles, an MTU-72 armoured bridgelayer, and Borisoglebsk-2 electronic warfare systems either being loaded onto trains or parked next to the tracks at Maslovka. Meanwhile, images posted on 20 July show BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, 2S3 self-propelled howitzers, and Borisoglebsk-2 systems onboard trains at Maslovka, and at least three TOS-1A thermobaric multiple rocket launchers (MRLs), three TZM transloaders, three BM-21 Grad MRLs, and three MT-LB armoured personnel carriers parked next to the tracks, likely waiting to board trains.

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