Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Quinta Jurecic
Monday, October 24, 2016, 5:02 PM

The battle for Mosul has entered its second week as coalition forces continue their advance toward the Iraqi city. Iraqi and Kurdish forces have now retaken roughly 80 villages surrounding Mosul, Reuters reports, though ISIS has increased its counterattacks as the Peshmerga north of Mosul move to within five miles of the city. ISIS fighters set fire to stocks of sulfur south of Mosul on Saturday, sending toxic smoke up across the area and forcing the anti-ISIS coalition to provide its fighters with protective masks. Hundreds of people have been treated for breathing problems related to the fumes.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State attacked the town of Kirkuk in northern Iraq in an effort to draw coalition forces away from Mosul, the Wall Street Journal writes. ISIS fighters moved into Kirkuk on Friday night, targeting government buildings with both gunfire and suicide bombers. After three days of intense fighting, Peshmerga forces redeployed from Mosul were largely able to push the militants out of the city, though suicide bombers may remain. Reuters suggests that the fight for Kirkuk may be a sign of the difficult path ahead in seizing Mosul for good.

The intra-coalition politics of the offensive continue to be thorny. After Secretary of Defense Ash Carter traveled to Baghdad on Saturday to meet with officials, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that he would reject Turkey’s offer to assist Iraq in the offensive on the principle of maintaining Iraqi sovereignty. Tensions have been high between Iraq and Turkey over the Turkish government’s desire to play a more active role in the fight for Mosul, despite Abadi’s disapproval. The Journal has more.

The Pentagon expects the fall of Mosul to reveal a treasure trove of intelligence to be used against ISIS, and it’s wasted no time in sending analysts to Iraq before the offensive is even over. The New York Times reports on the preemptive intelligence effort, which seeks to take advantage of the Islamic State’s careful record-keeping.

The civilians fleeing Mosul fear not just the threat of ISIS that lies behind them, but also the reception they may ultimately receive elsewhere in Iraq, the Washington Post writes. Sunni Muslims who lived in the city under militant rule may be accused of themselves having an affiliation with the Islamic State and face distrust both from the government and from suspicious neighbors.

Russia brought to a close a unilateral ceasefire carried out with the Syrian regime, resuming the bombing of Aleppo once again on Sunday. The ceasefire began last week and was meant to provide both civilians and rebel fighters with a chance to flee the beleaguered city, though few took advantage of the break in fighting. CNN has more.

The Washington Post takes a look at the Obama administration’s stalled plan to provide Syrian rebels with heavier weapons, including anti-aircraft guns. As recently as this month, the White House considered supplying CIA-backed rebels with weapons that would better equip them to fight back against the Russian bombardment of Aleppo. But the proposal was eventually left in administrative limbo, in an episode that points both to the administration’s frustration with the current state of the Syrian crisis and its inability to take decisive action to change the situation.

Fighting began again in Yemen after a 72-hour ceasefire between Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition expired on Sunday, Reuters writes. Both the Yemeni government in exile and the Houthis accused each other of violating the truce, quashing U.N. efforts to extend the fragile peace.

Forces backing Libya’s U.N.-supported government freed 13 foreign prisoners held by the Islamic State in the coastal city of Sirte on Saturday. Four foreign captives were also freed last Thursday. Libyan troops have been engaged in a protracted battle to clear Sirte of the few ISIS fighters who remain in the city after the majority of the group’s forces were expelled in August.

The LA Times reports on the continued ferocity of the war in Afghanistan. The United States has carried out over 700 airstrikes in the country so far this year, already twice as many as in 2015. With mounting casualties among the Afghan security forces and a resurgent Taliban that appears ready to fight into the winter, the conflict shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Cross-border fire across disputed territory in Kashmir killed two Pakistani civilians, one Indian civilian, and one Indian soldier on Monday, in an exchange that both India and Pakistan said was unprovoked. Tensions have been high in the region following a series of raids on Indian military camps in recent months, to which India has responded with retaliatory strikes. Meanwhile, the Times writes that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hard-line stance against Pakistan-based militants in Kashmir may be moving the regional rivals perilously close to war.

French authorities cleared an infamous refugee camp known as the “Jungle” in Calais in what the government referred to as a “humanitarian intervention,” the Times reports. The 6,000 to 8,000 people living in the camp will be spread across France, though many residents of the areas set to receive the refugees and migrants are unhappy with the government’s plan. The Calais camp became notorious in recent years as an ugly symbol of the unresolved refugee and migration crisis.

Both the U.S. government and the DNS provider Dyn are investigating the major DDOS attack on Dyn that took down major portions of the internet across the United States on Friday, the Post tells us. The attack appears to have been engineered using the “internet of things”—particularly insecure webcams manufactured by a single Chinese company, which are now being recalled. It remains unclear who is responsible for the attack.

A Virginia man pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge for helping his friend travel to Syria to fight alongside ISIS, the Post writes. The latter man pleaded guilty earlier this year and was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison.

ICYMI: This Weekend, on Lawfare

Carrie Cordero questioned why Donald Trump doesn’t believe the U.S. intelligence community about Russian hacking.

Steve Vladeck weighed in on the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Al Bahlul.

Zachary Burdette reviewed Lawfare’s week.

Quinta Jurecic posted the Lawfare Podcast, featuring Samuel Moyn on clean and endless war.

In the Foreign Policy Essay, Will McCants and Craig Whiteside argued that ISIS may once more go to ground following the collapse of its government.

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