Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Tuesday, October 17, 2017, 2:18 PM

U.S.-backed forces completed the capture of Raqqa, the one-time capital city of the Islamic State, the Washington Post reported. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they had ceased military operations and their fighters were clearing the city of bombs and looking for remaining Islamic State cells. Raqqa’s fall completes an offensive that started in June and left over 1,000 civilians dead and the city in ruins.

Taliban fighters attacked government targets across Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing at least 69 people, Reuters reported. Suicide car-bombs and gunmen attacked a police station in Paktia province, and bomb-filled trucks exploded outside a government office in neighboring Ghazni province. Among the dead were a senior police commander and dozens of government security forces. The attack occurred as American diplomats met with delegations from China, Pakistan and Afghanistan in Oman to try to open peace talks with the Taliban, according to the Post.

Philippine forces retook the city of Marawi from militants linked to the Islamic State, the New York Times reported. President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi “liberated” after five months of fighting between the Philippine military and a terrorist group that seized control of the city in May. Twenty to 30 militants remain sequestered in besieged city blocks, holding dozens of civilians captive. The fighting has displaced over 20,000 residents now taking shelter in cramped refugee camps.

A Spanish court jailed the leaders of the two leading Catalan separatist parties, the Times reported. In response, Catalonia’s regional government said Madrid had “dynamited” the proposal from Catalan President Carlos Puigdemont to negotiate about the region’s disputed status. Catalan leaders rejected Madrid’s ultimatum to renounce any bid for independence by Thursday. Instead, they began planning mass demonstrations to protest the taking of “political prisoners,” according to Reuters. Spain’s justice minister denied that the separatists were political prisoners, calling them “politicians in prison.”

Kurdish forces surrendered large swaths of territory to the advancing Iraqi army and Baghdad-aligned militias, the Wall Street Journal reported. Baghdad said it would push the Kurds back to positions they held before the Islamic State invasion in 2014. Kurdish officials said they would not fight Iraqi forces. By Tuesday, the Iraqi army had recaptured all oil fields the Kurds gained since 2014, according to the Times. Additionally, Baghdad-aligned militias also captured Sinjar, a strategic town near the Syrian border, the Post reported. President Trump said the U.S. would not take sides as the government attempted to avoid officially backing either of its allies in the dispute, according to the Journal. Iraq experts said the United State’s neutral stance was a de facto endorsement of the Iraqi action.

A car bombing assassinated an investigative journalist in Malta, the Times reported. Daphne Galizia’s reporting on the Panama Papers exposed corruption at the highest levels of Malta’s government. She caused a political crisis when she accused the Maltese prime minister’s wife of taking secret payments from Azerbaijan. The prime minister and other European leaders condemned the attack.

President Trump said “Cuba is responsible” for the health ailments U.S. diplomats suffered in Havana, the Journal reported. The U.S. has avoided directly blaming Cuba for causing the health problems of State Department employees but has maintained that Cuba has a responsibility to protect U.S. diplomats working in the country.

Cybersecurity researchers suspect that a North Korean cyber crime group was responsible for a recent hack of a Taiwanese bank, the Journal reported. BAE systems researchers said the North Korean “Lazarus group” used identifiable tools in the hack of the Far Eastern International Bank that was reported last week. The $60 million heist fits in a pattern of financial theft for the Lazarus group; the team stole millions from a Bangladeshi bank last year. Researchers have also linked Lazarus to the Wanna Cry malware from earlier this year and the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures

U.S. drone strikes killed dozens of Islamic State fighters at two training camps in Yemen, the Post reported. The Pentagon said the strikes were the first to target Islamic State forces in Yemen. In the past, al-Qaeda-linked militants predominated in the country. Near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, two U.S. drone strikes killed at least 31 people, Reuters reported. Pakistani officials said the strikes targeted Taliban hideouts in Afghan territory. Taliban sources contradicted government officials, saying the strikes killed Pakistan-based Haqqani network fighters.

The Times’ Steven Myers and Sui-Lee Wee wrote that China’s strict controls on the Internet have brought it stability as the U.S. struggles to regulate online platforms.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Andrew Keane Woods summarized the key issues to watch as Microsoft v. U.S. heads to the Supreme Court.

Matthew Kahn posted a statement from the chief prosecutor of the military commissions covering with an update in the case of the 9/11 accused.

Daniel Byman discussed whether we should apply the label of terrorism to domestic right-wing violence.

Matthew Miller listed ten questions the Senate Judiciary Committee should ask Jeff Sessions when the attorney general testifies on Wednesday.

Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes shared their column from Lawfare’s Foreign Policy feed on a proposal to reform Section 702.

Paul Rosenzweig posted details from a report that said a Wi-Fi security protocol is vulnerable to attack.

Nicholas Weaver argued that the Wi-Fi security flaw should not be concerning to average people.

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