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Daily Brief: Pentagon Confirms ISIS Propaganda Chief Killed

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August 31, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Pentagon Confirms ISIS Propaganda Chief Killed

The self-proclaimed Islamic State said that its chief strategist Abu Muhammad al-Adnani had been killed in northern Syria Tuesday. The Pentagon confirmed it had carried out an air strike targeting Adnani. Unnamed U.S. officials told reporters (NYT) a U.S. drone hit a vehicle believed to be carrying Adnani. Meanwhile, Russia's foreign ministry claimed its forces were responsible for Adnani's death (Middle East Eye). Adnani was considered the official spokesman of the Islamic State (ARA) and had a $5 million U.S. bounty on him.


"Adnani, who was in his late thirties, had long been an American nemesis, dating back to 2003. His real name was Taha Sobhi Falaha, but he used at least half a dozen other names during his life. He was one of the first foreign fighters to target the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. He was an early adherent of Al Qaeda in Iraq. The United States actually had Adnani in custody for more than five years, according to a United Nations biography that accompanied the imposition of international sanctions on him, in 2014," the U.N. biography said," Robin Wright writes for the New Yorker.

"A founding member of the Islamic State, Mr. Adnani, a 39-year-old Syrian, was the group’s chief spokesman and propagandist, running an operation that put out slickly produced videos of beheadings and massacres that shocked the world and sent a rush of recruits running to join the group in Syria. Accounts from arrested members of the Islamic State confirmed Mr. Adnani’s role as an operational leader as well. He oversaw the group’s external operations division, responsible for recruiting operatives around the world and instigating or organizing them to carry out attacks that have included Paris, Brussels and Dhaka, Bangladesh," Eric Schmitt and Anne Barnard write for the New York Times.

"Jenna Jordan examined 298 leadership targeting incidents from 1945 through 2004, and concluded that 'decapitation is  not an effective counterterrorism strategy,' and oftentimes prolongs the life of a terrorist group. On the other hand, Bryan C. Price concluded, by analyzing the effect of leadership decapitation on 207 terrorist groups from 1970 to 2008, the killing or capturing leaders significantly increases the mortality rate of the group. In 2014, Jordan reviewed the impact of 109 attacks on al-Qaeda leadership from 2001 to 2011, and did not find a 'significant degradation of organizational capacity or a marked disruption in al-Qaida’s activities,' measured in the number of attacks and their lethality," CFR's Micah Zenko writes in this blog post. 


Myanmar Peace Conference With Tribal Representatives Begins

Hundreds of delegates from ethnic tribes in Myanmar gathered in the country's capital for five days of talks aimed at ending separatist insurgencies (AP). UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will speak at the event, which is not attended by representatives from the Rohingya minority (DW).

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick writes about the persecution of the Rohingya in this article for Washington Monthly.

NORTH KOREA: The South Korean government said that the North executed a top minister at the ruling party's central committee in July (Yonhap); North Korea rarely confirms such reports (BBC).


Uzbek Leader's Health Uncertain

Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov was absent at festivities to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union (RFE/RL). Karimov, who has ruled the country since the fall of the Soviet Union, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage (Guardian), his daughter confirmed Monday.

PAKISTAN: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking during a visit to India, said that Pakistan has made progress in recent months in fighting terror networks inside its borders (Reuters).

This CFR Global Conflict Tracker examines Islamist militancy in Pakistan.


Yemeni Official: Reconstruction Could Cost $15 Billion

Yemen's minister of local administration, speaking during a workshop on postwar recovery, said the country's reconstruction could cost $15 billion (AFP). Yemen was the Middle East's poorest nation when a Saudi-led coalition began a bombing campaign last March in support of the central government against Houthi rebels.  

This CFR Global Conflict Tracker follows the Yemeni conflict.


Nigerian GDP Figures Confirm Recession

Nigeria announced its economy contracted 2 percent between April and June, marking the second consecutive quarter of  contraction (BBC). Nigeria is now Africa's second largest economy after South Africa; the recession is the country's first in two decades (Africa News).

CFR's John Campbell discusses the size of the Nigerian economy in this blog post.

SUDAN: U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth met with Sudanese presidential assistant Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid and said the United States would continue to work to convince rebel groups to sign a cease-fire with the Sudanese government (Sudan Tribune).


Small Rise in Migrants Arriving at Greek Islands From Turkey

Authorities said some 460 migrants arrived by boat to Greek islands from Turkey Monday and Tuesday (Reuters), the highest number in weeks. The uptick is an indication that migrants and asylum seekers are using the sea route despite a March EU-Turkey deal to curb migration. The figure is still small compared to last October (WSJ), when officials often recorded six thousand daily arrivals, and current crossings from Libya to Italy.

Participants in this CFR event discussed the role the United States should have in responding to the migrant crisis in the Middle East. 


Trump to Meet With Mexican President

Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump announced he had accepted an invitation to meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (FT) and will fly to the country today. The Republican candidate is expected to speak in Arizona afterward on immigration.

CUBA: The first passenger jet service will fly between the United States and Cuba on Wednesday (NYT). The JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale to Santa Clara will carry U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

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