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These 2 Cities Show Why the War on Terrorism is So Tough

The war on terror just got really hot today--and in two countries.

It's just not good news: A major Afghan city has been taken over by Islamist militants, as the world hoped security was strengthening in the country.

And a quagmire of a civil war got more complicated and a new player involved: Russia launched airstrikes in Syria. Wait, what? Yes, it happened.

We're here to break the situations in Kunduz, Afghanistan and Homs, Syria down for you:

Kunduz, Afghanistan (Julian-G. Albert / Flickr)

Where is Kunduz?

It's a large city of about 300,000 in northern Afghanistan, and it's the capital of Kunduz province.

What's happening there now?

There is a battle for control of the city. Taliban fighters have been moving in and taking large parts of Kunduz. With the airport remaining under their control, the government is trying to take the city back under their protection. They're struggling.

Earlier this week, fighters took a Kunduz-area prison and freed 500 inmates.

It is unclear how many people have died or have been injured but Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz says they've treated about 171 people. Thousands have fled the city.

Who are the key players?

The fight is now ongoing between the Taliban--an Islamist militant and political organization in Afghanistan and Pakistan--and Afghanistan security forces.

The United States also got involved by launching two airstrikes on Taliban positions yesterday.

Why is it important?

It's a big deal. It is the largest gain for the Taliban and the biggest setback for the Afghan government since security forces squashed Taliban control of Afghanistan's capital Kabul in 2001.

The United States and other foreign militaries trained Afghan forces in a mission to secure Afghanistan after the September 11th attacks and the American invasion of the country. (They pulled out last year.) This only shows that their trained forces, well, aren't doing all that great.

What next?

The fight continues.

Security forces are holding down their control of the Kunduz airport and are trying to take back more of the city. United States and NATO special forces are helping out.

Homs, Syria (Bo yaser / Wikimedia)

Where is Homs?

It is a city in western Syria, and it is the capital of the Homs governorate.

What's happening there now?

So Syria has been in a four-year war that started from a government crackdown on a protest uprising against President Assad in 2011.

The war has many players--rebels, terrorists, the regime, ISIS, and more--and Russia just got involved.

Russia has long been a supporter of President Assad but just boosted their ground support in the last month by building onto an airbase and bringing military supplies.

President Putin forced the Russian parliament to approve measures allowing Russian force abroad. Then Russian planes just hit the city of Homs today.

Who are the key players?

Russia is striking Syria's Homs as Putin claims Syria's President Assad called for the strikes as support. They say they're attacking the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Syria. The country is a massive stronghold for ISIS.

Meanwhile, the United States and a coalition of foreign countries have been managing an anti-ISIS campaign and Iraq. Russia let the U.S. know about their flights an hour beforehand.

Why is it important?

Russia's strikes have complicated an already complicated situation. Russia wants to help Assad fight ISIS. But then POTUS Obama (and other countries) say Assad needs to go. While they disagree, Russia just went ahead and did their thing.

And do we really know if they struck ISIS? The U.S. claims Russia didn't attack ISIS in Homs. (And instead hit civilian areas in Homs.) The city really isn't known to be a spot for ISIS fighters.

What next?

The Pentagon is a bit surprised--but they're moving fast. They're going to start talks with Russia about Syria's airspace. Obama called for this Tuesday night before Russia's strikes but now it's more important than ever.

Images used under Creative Commons licensing.

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These 2 Cities Show Why the War on Terrorism is So Tough

Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a freelance international news reporter, having contributed to The Atlantic online and Mic. He's worked at CNNMoney, the New York Daily News, and Voice of America. Patrick loves tweeting, reading, and grabbing coffee in either New York or Washington D.C. Tweet anything on politics or world conflict to him! Follow: @patrickdehahn.

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