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Daily Brief: UN Reports Record Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan

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July 25, 2016

Daily News Brief

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UN Reports Record Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan reached a record high in the first six months of 2016, according to the United Nations. A new UN report says that 1,601 civilians were killed and 3,565 wounded through June of this year (WSJ) and that approximately a third of that total were children. The UN, which began reporting these figures in 2009, said that insurgent groups were responsible for 60 percent of casualties. The report comes after eighty protesters from the Hazara ethnic group were killed in a suicide blast in Kabul Saturday; the self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed the attack (NYT). U.S. President Barack Obama announced in early July he would maintain 8,400 troops in Afghanistan through the end of his presidency (White House).


"Until Saturday, Kabul residents mostly knew of Islamic State’s operations in Afghanistan through reports of pockets of militants fighting under that name in some eastern districts. They had never felt their presence up close. On Saturday, that appears to have changed. According to the group’s news agency, Amaq, it was Isis who sent two suicide bombers into a crowd of peaceful, civilian protesters, killing at least 80 and wounding more than 200. The statement called the crowd 'a Shia gathering'. Most of the protesters were members of the ethnic Hazara minority. The Taliban were quick to condemn what was one of the deadliest single attacks in Afghanistan since 2001. While the exact number of attackers or blasts was unknown, Afghan authorities confirmed that Isis was behind the bombings," Sune Engel Rasmussen writes for the Guardian.

"The attack on peaceful protesters in Kabul — who were mostly from the Hazara ethnic minority — stirred an international outcry, in part because it was the first time that the Islamic State’s leadership in Syria had claimed responsibility for such a deadly strike in Afghanistan. But some here voiced skepticism that the terrorist group, whose fighters in Afghanistan are concentrated in the east, was behind it. The detail hardly seemed to matter to others, who see the bombing as another in a long procession of attacks born of a chaotic and unending war," Mujib Mashal, Zahra Nader, and Jawad Sukhanyar write for the New York Times.

"The Afghan government would be facing a far less grave security situation today had the US and NATO not caused so much civilian harm prior to transition, as we heard from many senior US and Afghan officials and experts in our research. This harm was caused in a number of ways, including entrenching abusive local commanders for short-term security gains, or being hoodwinked into targeting civilians accused of being Taliban by their rivals, as well as civilian casualties in air strikes and detention operations. Despite the very real short-term threat from the Taliban, the Afghan security forces need to recognise that restraint is a strategic necessity in the mid to long-term," Rachel Reid writes for Al Jazeera. 


Australia PM Proposes Stricter Anti-Terror Law

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull proposed measures that would allow terror suspects to remain imprisoned even after their sentences have concluded if they are deemed to be a continued risk to public safety (Al Jazeera). Suspects as young as fourteen could be tried as adults under the new anti-terror legislation (BBC).

PHILIPPINES: President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a unilateral cease-fire with the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (Phil Star). Truce negotiations will begin in August in Norway.

Richard Javad Heydarian writes about expectations for Duterte's presidency in this Asia Unbound blog post.


Nepal PM Resigns Ahead of No-Confidence Vote

Nepalese Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli resigned Sunday after nine months in office as parliament prepared a no-confidence vote (Kathmandu Post). Oli's government is Nepal's eighth in the last ten years (NYT)


Five Medical Facilities Bombed in Aleppo

A spokesman for a Syrian rescue organization said that five medical facilities suffered damages following air strikes in the city of Aleppo Saturday (WaPo). Government forces reportedly dropped missiles from helicopters. A monitoring group said that at least eight people were killed when rebels launched rockets into central Damascus following the Aleppo strikes (Middle East Eye).

TUNISIA: A defector from Tunisia's ruling Nidaa Tounes party held a congress for the new Tunis Movement Project and said it would reject mixing religion and politics (AFP). Meanwhile Prime Minister Habib Essid will face a vote of confidence in parliament on July 30 that could lead to his resignation (Tunisia Live).

CFR's Steven A. Cook writes about Tunisia after the Arab Spring in this blog post. 


South Sudan Opposition Seeks to Replace VP Machar

A faction of South Sudan's opposition is seeking to replace rebel leader and Vice President Riek Machar, a longtime rival to President Salva Kiir, as Machar has been missing since deadly clashes in the capital of Juba in mid-July (VOA). A rebel spokesman said opposition fighters would shift their allegiance to Mining Minister Taban Deng Gai.  

SOUTH AFRICA: New research on historical murder rates says that, contrary to common belief, South Africa's deadly crime rate has dropped since it became a democracy in 1994 (Mail and Guardian).


Syrian Slated for Deportation Injures Twelve in Suicide Blast in Germany

A Syrian asylum seeker blew himself up outside a music festival on Sunday night in the Bavarian city of Ansbach (BBC), killing himself and injuring twelve others. A German official confirmed that the migrant was slated to be deported to Bulgaria (DW), and German media reported the attacker had attempted suicide before.   

TURKEY: Turkey issued arrest warrants for forty-two journalists (Al Jazeera) Monday amid a crackdown that has targeted more than 60,000 people (Reuters). Amnesty International said it had received "credible evidence" of torture and abuse of people detained following an attempted coup (AFP).  A Turkish government minister said that if the United States does not extradite a cleric President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of masterminding the coup (Reuters) it could hurt U.S.-Turkey ties.

CFR's Steven A. Cook writes about Turkey's authoritarian turn in this article for the Atlantic


Analysts See Early Signs of Economic Recovery in Brazil

A Brazilian central bank survey of economists projected gross domestic product growth of 1 percent next year, following two years of contractions (WSJ). Brazil's stock market has risen 31 percent this year and its currency has strengthened against the dollar.

AMERICAS: U.S. President Barack Obama met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Friday and said that even with the "heated rhetoric" around U.S.-Mexico relations, the United States still "values tremendously" the two countries' partnership (LAHT)


Trump Proposes Tougher Immigration Controls

Donald Trump said (NBC) he would limit immigration from countries that have been "compromised by terrorism," including France and Germany. Trump also threatened to withdraw the United States from the World Trade Organization if necessary to move forward a plan that would punish U.S. companies moving manufacturing abroad.

Track and compare the foreign policy, immigration and trade policies of Clinton and Trump with CFR’s interactive, The Candidates and the World.

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