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Daily Brief: U.S.-Backed Forces Declare Victory in Syria's Raqqa


Council on Foreign Relations Newsletter If you are unable to see the message below, click here to view. October 17, 2017 Daily News Brief TOP OF THE AGENDA U.S.-Backed Forces Declare Victory in Syria's Raqqa A U.S.-backed coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters announced that they have fully recaptured the city of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed Islamic State's de facto capital, after a five-month assault. A spokesman for the coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces, declared fighting over in the city (BBC) and said operations are now underway to remove landmines (AP) and search for sleeper cells of militants. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, reported that nine hundred civilians have been killed (Al Jazeera) since the start of the operation, including 570 in air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition. Islamic State militants took control of the city more than three years ago.  ANALYSIS "Raqqa, a remote city on the Euphrates River, took on enormous symbolic importance in Syria’s multisided war," Anne Barnard writes for the New York Times. "The focus in Syria will now switch to the southeast and Islamic State’s final piece of significant territory in Deir Ezzor province, where Syrian government forces backed by Russian airstrikes and militias allied with Iran have made advances in recent weeks. Victory there would entrench further Russia’s already dominant position in Syria," Donna Abu-Nasr and Caroline Alexander write for Bloomberg. "Predictions of the [the Islamic State’s] ultimate demise are premature. What the world is witnessing is the transition, and in many ways degeneration, from an insurgent organization with a fixed headquarters to a clandestine terrorist network dispersed throughout the region and the globe," Colin P. Clarke writes for Foreign Affairs. PACIFIC RIM Besieged Philippines City Declared Freed Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city of Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence” (Phil Star) following military operations to break a siege by Islamist extremists that began in May. The country’s armed forces reported that 824 militants and 162 soldiers were killed in the operations. SOUTH KOREA: Ousted President Park Geun-hye’s seven defense lawyers have resigned en masse (VOA) to protest her corruption trial, which they called biased and and an act of “political revenge.” SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA Attack on Afghan Police Kills Thirty-Two The Taliban claimed responsibility for dual suicide attacks on a police academy in southeastern Afghanistan (Dawn) that killed thirty-two people, including the provincial police chief (Tolo). Meanwhile, four suspected U.S. drone strikes were reported along the Afghan-Pakistani border over the past two days with a death toll of at least thirty-one (AFP). Daniel Byman and Steven Simon discuss the difficulty in ending the war in Afghanistan in Foreign Affairs. PAKISTAN: Sri Lanka’s national cricket team will play in Pakistan for the first time since 2009 (BBC), when eight people were killed and several players injured in an attack in Lahore.  MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA Iraq-Backed Militias Seize Sinjar From Kurds Yazidi and Shia militias backed by Baghdad took control of the Kurdish-held town of Sinjar (WaPo), near Iraq’s border with Syria, on Tuesday as the central government reasserts its control over regions contested by Iraqi Kurds. SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA DRC Elected to UN Human Rights Council The Democratic Republic of Congo was among the fifteen states elected to three-year terms on the UN Human Rights Council by the General Assembly on Monday. Human Rights Watch called its election a “slap in the face” to victims of abuse (DW) in the country. The CFR Global Conflict Tracker looks at violence in the DRC. SOUTH AFRICA: McKinsey apologized for working with a state-owned power company (WSJ) that is linked to a prominent family facing a parliamentary inquiry on corruption. The consulting firm said it would suspend its work with state-owned companies (FT) in the country.  EUROPE Portugal Mourning Wildfire Deaths Portugal declared three days of mourning as its death toll in weekend wildfires (CNN) reached thirty-nine; another three were reported dead in Spain. High temperatures and low humidity have raised the countries' risks of fire. EU: Federica Mogherini, the European Union's top diplomat, will visit Washington to appeal to the Trump administration (Politico) to preserve the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. The announcement follows a meeting of EU foreign ministers. Payam Mohseni and Sahar Nowrouzzadeh write in Foreign Affairs that Trump has set the United States on a path toward isolation and confrontation with Iran. AMERICAS U.S. Condemns Venezuelan Gubernatorial Elections The U.S. State Department called Sunday’s elections neither “free nor fair” (BBC), citing irregularities. The ruling party claimed victory in seventeen of twenty-three governorships. MEXICO: Attorney General Raul Cervantes, an ally of President Enrique Pena Nieto, resigned Monday amid calls by anticorruption activists (NYT) to appoint an independent prosecutor to the position.  UNITED STATES Trump May Visit Korean Border on Asia Trip U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s five-country tour of Asia next month is set to include two days in South Korea (Korea Times). Local media has speculated that Trump may visit the demilitarized zone (VOA) separating the two Koreas, a move that could be seen as a provocation by Pyongyang. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was held hostage by the Taliban for five years, pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior (BBC) in a Fort Bragg, North Carolina, military court.          Council on Foreign Relations — 58 East 68th Street — New York, NY 10065 CFR does not share email addresses with third parties. Forward This Email | Subscribe to CFR Newsletters | Unsubscribe - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  


Date: October 17, 2017 at 10:08PM