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Daily Brief: U.S. Colonel: One-Third of Fallujah Cleared of ISIS Forces

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June 22, 2016

Daily News Brief

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U.S. Colonel: One-Third of Fallujah Cleared of ISIS Forces

U.S. Army Colonel Christopher Garver said that only one-third of Fallujah had been cleared of forces from the self-proclaimed Islamic State and other parts of the city are "contested." The statement from the Baghdad-based coalition spokesman comes after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said that the city had been liberated from the militant group (Al Jazeera). Garver said ISIS forces appeared to have a "defensive belt" (CBS) around the city with less "stiff defenses" inside of it and warned that Iraqi forces may encounter their "toughest fighting" as they move away from the city center. Some 80,000 people are estimated to have fled the city during the four weeks of the Iraqi government-led siege on the city (Telegraph).


"The failure of the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government and international aid to help the estimated 80,000 Fallujah residents who have fled – 20,000 of them in just two days last week – is raising alarm over the prospect of reconciliation with the central government seen as essential to Iraq’s stability. Fallujah is a traditional hotbed of Sunni militancy where both IS and its predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq, first took root. Many residents from the city and the wider Anbar province believe they are being punished for having been under the rule of IS, which has made Shiite Muslims its main target," Jane Arraf writes for the Christian Science Monitor.

"Families fleeing the combat in the Iraqi city of Fallujah have been forced to sleep in the open desert for almost a week, with aid agencies warning that people are at risk of dying as supplies of tents and water run dangerously low. More than 85,000 people have escaped the city and its surroundings in recent weeks as Iraqi security forces battle to recapture the city from the Islamic State. About 4.4 million people in the country are now internally displaced, one of the highest totals of any country," Loveday Morris writes for the Washington Post.

"The battle for Fallujah involved the regular Iraqi military and militias. To allay fears that the Shia militias would take the predominantly Arab Sunni city, Abadi announced that they would play a supporting role, and not participate in the assault on the city's centre. The bargain was that if the militias were held back, the US would increase the tempo of its air strikes, as it did in the battle for Ramadi in December 2015. In both cases, US air power was contingent on sidelining the Shia militias. In Washington's view, the [Popular Mobilization Units'] potential to alienate Sunnis in Fallujah took precedence over the military effectiveness of the militias," Ibrahim al-Marashi writes for Al Jazeera.


New North Korea Missile Test Appears to Show Improved Capability

South Korean military officials said that North Korea appeared to successfully test an intermediate-range ballistic missile (Korea Times), which flew about 250 miles.

This CFR Global Conflict tracker follows recent developments in the North Korea crisis.

CHINA: A state-owned shipping company announced the launch of a cruise line with service to the disputed Paracel islands (FT), which both China and Vietnam claim. The venture is the second cruise line to the contested islands in the South China Sea.   

This CFR Global Conflict Tracker discusses what's at stake in the competing claims in the South China Sea.


U.S. Diplomat Defends Mansour Drone Attack

U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson defended the U.S. drone strike in Pakistan's Balochistan province in May that killed the Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour (Express Tribune). Olson said that the Taliban's "repeated refusals" to join in talks with the Afghan government contributed to the U.S. government's decision to carry out the strike.

This CFR InfoGuide looks at the history of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

INDIA: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (Indian Express) to seek China's support for India's entrance to the Nuclear Suppliers Group.


Report: Air Strikes on Raqqa Kill at Least Twenty-Five Civilians

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that airstrikes on the de facto capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria killed at least twenty-five civilians (Middle East Eye). The strikes come after Islamic State militants repelled Russia-backed government forces that advanced on the city.


Militant Group Denies Truce in Nigerian Oil-Rich Region

The Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group behind recent attacks on oil infrastructure in Nigeria's oil infrastructure (Premium Times), denied agreeing to a thirty-day truce with the central government in a statement on its Twitter page (WSJ).  

CFR's John Campbell discusses the attacks on Nigeria's oil industry that have led to Angola becoming the continent's largest producer in this blog post.

SOUTH AFRICA: Violent street protests erupted in Pretoria after the ruling African National Congress released its names of candidates that will run for municipal offices in August (Al Jazeera).


Sweden Introduces Rules to Restrict Asylum-Seekers

Sweden will limit the number of people given permanent residency in the country and increase regulations for family reunification (NYT). Sweden, a country of 9.5 million, took in 160,000 refugees last year.

This CFR Backgrounder discusses Europe's migration crisis.

ARMENIA: Pope Francis will visit (National Catholic Reporter) traditionally Orthodox Armenia this week in what some analysts say signals the country's closer ties to the West (Eurasia) and a shift away from Russia.


Brazil Interim President Approves Funds to Struggling Rio de Janeiro Ahead of Olympics

Brazilian Interim President Michel Temer approved an additional $850 million (WSJ) to the state of Rio de Janeiro after the governor declared a state of "public calamity" over the state's finances and public services. A presidential decree said the funds should be used for security during the August and September Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

VENEZUELA: U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon arrived in Caracas for meetings with the Venezuelan government (LAHT) amid growing civil unrest and political and economic crisis there.

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