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Daily Brief: Defense Chiefs Discuss ISIS Challenges

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July 21, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Defense Chiefs Discuss ISIS Challenges

Representatives from more than thirty countries are in Washington to discuss contingency plans in the event that the self-proclaimed Islamic State strongholds of Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria, fall in the coming months (NYT). U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the biggest concern was that governance and stabilization efforts would lag behind the military campaign (AP). French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said his country would increase support to Iraqi and Kurdish peshmerga forces and strengthen its cooperation (Medill) with the United States. UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said he would double UK troops in Iraq to five hundred (BBC). Meanwhile in Syria, U.S.-backed rebels issued an ultimatum for Islamic State fighters to leave the city of Manbij in forty-eight hours (AFP), and the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition called for a suspension of the U.S. anti-Islamic State bombing campaign following reports of dozens of civilian deaths around Manbij (Reuters)


"Even as the officials were mapping out the day-after scenarios, they faced a bigger question, particularly in the aftermath of an attempted coup in Turkey and an attack the Islamic State says it inspired in France: Is the United States-led coalition winning the battle but losing the larger war?" Helene Cooper writes for the New York Times.

"Another question is, what do we mean by defeated? ISIS fighters are leaving cities, but are still in the deserts of Anbar, Salahuddin province, and the mountains of Diyala. They can wage an insurgency for years to come. If there’s no solution for the different sides to live together under a workable governing system, Iraq risks a future in which once again an uprising will take away land from the state, just as in June 2014, when cities were swept up in an uprising that ISIS either spearheaded or stole, depending on how you define it. Whether it’s in the name of ISIS or some other radical group, it promises only more violence and bloodshed for the country," Ned Parker says in this CFR interview.

"Americans and the British are not lacking for old arguments, but they are lacking creative and realistic thinking about Iraq. When Iraqi forces liberated Fallujah in late June, there was a palpable sense of relief that—once again—Iraqis and Americans had 'turned a corner.' The good news continued over the weekend when the Iraqis drove Islamic State fighters from an airbase near Mosul, but haven’t people learned anything by now? Turning a corner in Iraq invariably means walking into another nightmare," writes CFR's Steven A. Cook.


Three Hong Kong Protest Leaders Convicted for Unlawful Assembly, Incitement

Three students who led 2014 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong were convicted on charges of incitement and unlawful assembly (SCMP). The so-called Umbrella Movement was prompted by Chinese restrictions on who could run in Hong Kong elections for its chief executive (NYT).

CFR's Elizabeth C. Economy writes about protest leader Joshua Wong in this blog post.

NEW ZEALAND: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden accepted an invitation from New Zealand Prime Minister John Key (NZ Herald) to send a U.S. warship to a naval commemoration. The event will mark the first time a U.S. military ship enters the country's waters in the three decades since New Zealand passed legislation prohibiting ships with nuclear weapons from entering its waters (WSJ). The United States insists on ambiguity about whether its military vessels are carrying nuclear weapons.


Hundreds of Taliban Fighters Stage Assault on Kunduz District

Up to 70 percent of the Qala-e-Zal district in the northern Afghan province Kunduz has been taken over by Taliban fighters, according to a spokesman for the provincial governor (Al Jazeera). The Taliban briefly seized control of the provincial capital last year.

Seth G. Jones writes about areas of Afghanistan where the Taliban has seized control in this Contingency Planning Memorandum.  

PAKISTAN: Pakistan requested the UN Human Rights Council send a fact-finding mission to India-administered Kashmir to probe recent clashes between security forces and protesters (Dawn). At least forty-five people have been killed amid unrest following the death of a separatist leader (CBS)


Syrian Opposition Group Filmed Beheading Child Was Once Backed by U.S.

Syrian rebel group Nour al-din al-Zenki, whose video of members beheading a child caused outrage (Reuters), was part of a U.S.-vetted alliance of rebel groups that received anti-tank missiles until a year ago (Guardian). A U.S. State Department spokesman said the department was investigating the incident.


Rights Group Accuses Kenya of Forced Disappearances

A new report from Human Rights Watch accuses Kenyan security forces of "disappearing" at least thirty-four people (HRW) in counterterrorism operations in Nairobi and northeastern Kenya. The report says that Kenyan forces target ethnic Somali Kenyans and Islamic clerics in operations against al-Shabab supporters (VOA).

GUINEA: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a restoration of diplomatic relations with the West African nation of Guinea (Africa News) following his recent four-country tour on the continent. 


French Government Makes Final Push for Unpopular Labor Law

President Francois Hollande's Socialist party government pushed an overhaul of French labor laws through parliament in its final step to ease rules regarding firing, hiring, and work hours (NYT). Polls show as much as 70 percent of the population opposes the move.

TURKEY: Turkey's parliament is expected to approve a three-month state of emergency (AP) which will allow the government to suspend "the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms" and allow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to bypass parliament to pass new laws (BBC) in the wake of last week's attempted coup.

CFR's Steven A. Cook writes about why this coup attempt failed in this Washington Post piece.


Panama Launches Commission to ID Victims of 1989 U.S. Invasion

The Panamanian government announced an investigation into deaths following the 1989 U.S. invasion to topple then-leader Manuel Noriega (BBC). The U.S. Defense department recorded five hundred deaths in the invasion, including twenty-three U.S. troops (AFP); the U.S. ambassador to Panama said the United States will collaborate in the investigation.


Helen Clark, Frontrunner for UN Top Post, Says Body Can do More Against Extremism

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, a frontrunner to succeed Ban Ki-moon as UN secretary-general, said the United Nations could do a better job fighting extremism and terror (Guardian). Clark said the UN needed to address "the root causes" of terrorism through peace-building and defending human rights.


Trump Proposes Scaling Back U.S. Global Role

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said (NYT) that the United States shouldn’t "lecture" allies like Turkey on political purges or rights abuses. He also raised doubts about extending U.S. security guarantees to members of NATO in case of an attack.

Track and compare the foreign policy positions of Trump and Hillary Clinton with CFR’s interactive, The Candidates and the World.

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