Kosovo officially has a military. Kosovo’s parliament has passed legislation that formalized the professional status of the Kosovo Security Forces. All 107 lawmakers that were present for the vote voted to approve it (there are 120 seats total). Those who did not support the move, and thus boycotted the vote, were all ethnic Serbs. To the government in Serbia, the bill’s passage is a violation of U.N. resolutions, one that endorses what it calls an “illegal occupying armed formation” in Serbian territory. Belgrade says it may respond in force. With Russia’s backing, Serbia called for a U.N. Security Council meeting on Monday to address the matter. Responses from the international community are varied. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg criticized the move, saying the alliance would need to re-examine its engagement with Kosovo. The U.S. supports the move, and the EU is generally aligned with NATO on it, though Germany has dissented. Kosovo’s military is too small to take on Serbia alone, so it’s not as if Kosovo is planning for an invasion. Serbia may not like the move, but if it responds with military action, it risks drawing in Western powers, in which case it will have to rely on Russian support to have a fighting chance. These constraints explain why Kosovo’s decision to formalize the security forces has not triggered military action on either side – yet.

Turkey takes its Kurdish offensive to Iraq. We noted yesterday that Turkey intended to strike Kurdish forces east of the Euphrates in Syria. But later, the presidents of Turkey and the U.S. agreed to coordinate more in Syria. It’s a bit vague, but it gives the impression that a Turkish offensive beyond the Euphrates is at least on hold. Yet neither president mentioned Iraq, where yesterday Turkey conducted airstrikes against Kurdish targets, including Turkish and Syrian Kurdish groups, in the north. Iraq promptly accused Turkey of violating its airspace and summoned Turkey’s ambassador to formally protest the action. At the time of publication, the United States, which has recently indicated willingness to support and cooperate with Iraqi Kurdistan, has yet to say how it will deal with the fallout.

In Afghanistan, China enters the fray. At a meeting in Kabul today, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan signed a counterterrorism agreement, and China committed to increase connectivity between Peshawar, Kabul and Kandahar through infrastructure projects, raising the prospect of Afghanistan’s inclusion in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Beijing’s moves complicate Washington’s already difficult position in negotiating a deal in Afghanistan. The agreement comes in the final days of U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad’s visits to eight countries (including Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar) to help advance the Afghan peace process. It’s clear that regional players want to end the fighting in Afghanistan – the Pakistani prime minister, for example, announced that thanks to Islamabad’s facilitation, the U.S. and the Afghan Taliban will meet as early as next week – but the devil’s in the details, and the more players jostling for power and influence in the talks, the more elusive an agreement becomes.

Honorable Mentions

  • U.S. President Donald Trump said Washington is in no hurry in its negotiations with North Korea and noted that North Korea’s economy has “wonderful potential.”
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry announced that its navy will participate in ASEAN naval drills organized by Singapore and South Korea.
  • Brazil launched its first domestically constructed navy attack submarine. It’s part of a military cooperation agreement with France that includes construction of a nuclear submarine.
  • Ethiopia followed through on a September announcement to withdraw its military from its border with Eritrea.
  • The Australian government now recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but will wait to move its embassy until an unspecified “practical” moment.
  • Fighting resumed in Yemen a day after warring parties agreed to a cease-fire in the port city of Hodeida.
  • Belgium’s prime minister suggested that the Schengen Area should reconsider the membership of countries that do not show “solidarity” with the group, particularly in managing migration.