News Roundup and Notes: December 29, 2014

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news. 

AFGHANISTAN

The U.S.-led coalition formally ended its 13-year combat mission in Afghanistan on Sunday. Around 13,000 foreign troops, largely Americans, will remain in the country in a training and advisory capacity under a two-year mission called “Resolute Support.” [Reuters’ Kay Johnson] President Obama marked the official end of the mission with a statement welcoming the “responsible conclusion” to “the longest war in American history.”

Recent fighting in the remote district of Dangam, where no foreign forces remain, illustrates the “new phase of the [Afghan] war.” Azam Ahmed reports on the “utter confusion” surrounding the battles where Afghan forces are operating on their own. [New York Times]

The U.S. and U.K. were less rigorous in approving enemy combatants for targeted killings than previously suspected, with some drug dealers also making the list, according to secret NATO documents. [Der Spiegel]

IRAQ and SYRIA

A suicide attack in Baghdad killed 11 people and wounded 23 others when the bomber detonated in a crowd of Shi’ite pilgrims today, said police and medical officials. [Reuters] 

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and partner nations conducted 31 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in both Iraq and Syria on Friday. [The Hill’s Maghashyam Mali]  U.S. and partner nations conducted a further 12 strikes in both Iraq and Syria on Saturday, and 13 strikes against Islamic State targets on Sunday. [Central Command: here and here]

The U.S. strategy to defeat the Islamic State is targeting the group’s psychology in the hopes of understanding what makes it so dangerous, reports Eric Schmitt. [New York Times]

The Syrian regime has intensified harsh recruitment measures to overcome “substantial manpower losses to its military,” reports Hugh Naylor. [Washington Post]

Iran has sent over 1,000 military advisors to Iraq since June to assist in the battle against the Islamic State, and Tehran has spent over $1 billion in military aid to the country. [Washington Post’s Missy Ryan and Loveday Morris]

The Islamic State has killed almost 2,000 people in Syria over the past 6 months, reports the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Al Jazeera]

Gen. John Allen gives an interview to the Wall Street Journal’s Joseph Rago. The U.S. special envoy in the war against the Islamic State highlights gradual progress despite difficult battles looming ahead, and the challenge of defining victory in this war.

LIBYA

Militant groups have launched new attempts to seize oil resources, according to the Libyan foreign minister speaking in Cairo yesterday. Militias set fire to five storage tanks, resulting in the loss of around 850,000 barrels of oil. [AP]

Libyan forces have carried out air strikes targeting an armed militant group in the western city of Misrata for the first time, following a 72-hour ultimatum by the air force to the militants. [BBC] The UN mission in Libya condemned the airstrikes, warning that a further escalation in hostilities could lead to an “all-out-war.” [UN News Centre] 

PAKISTAN

A Taliban commander allegedly behind the Peshawar school massacre was killed by Pakistani security forces last week, according to government officials. [The Hill’s Jesse Byrnes]

A pair of U.S. drone strikes targeted a senior Pakistani Taliban leader in the North Waziristan tribal region on Friday; it is unclear whether the strike killed Asmatullah Muawiya. [Long War Journal’s Bill Roggio]

The steps being taken by Pakistan to “crack down” on violent Islamist extremism, after “pledging for years” to do so, are explored by Tim Craig and Carol Morello. [Washington Post]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS  

Palestine will submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council today calling for the withdrawal of Israel from occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank within three years, said President Mahmoud Abbas. [Wall Street Journal’s Joshua Mitnick]

Top al-Shabaab militant leader Zakariya Ahmed Ismail Hersi surrendered to police in the Gedo region of Somalia, according to Somali officials. [BBC]  A UN probe has shown the complexity of the struggle against extremism in Somalia, including government officials’ involvement in arms supply to al-Shabaab, report Justin Scheck et al. [Wall Street Journal]

The NSA released 12 years of internal oversight reports on Christmas eve, documenting “abusive and improper practices by agency employees,” reports Murtaza Hussain. [The Intercept]

The Senate will consider an Iran sanctions bill in January, according to Sen. Lindsay Graham speaking on Saturday. [The Hill’s Peter Sullivan]

Cameroon says it killed 41 Boko Haram militants as it combatted a wave of attacks along the Nigerian border this weekend; Cameroon’s assault included airstrikes against the group for the first time on Sunday. [Reuters]

The Washington Post editorial board calls on the Obama administration to clamp down on the nuclear treaty breakdown between the U.S. and Russia before the situation escalates.

Since 9/11 the Secret Service has struggled to carry out its basic duties as the agency assumed new responsibilities under counterterrorism laws as well as facing tight budgets and bureaucratic battles, according to government documents and interviews with current and former officials. [Washington Post’s Carol D. Leonnig]

North Korea blamed the U.S. for an Internet failure across its major websites last week and for forcing Sony to release “The Interview” in a statement released on Saturday. [Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Cheng and In-Soo Nam]  Brian Fung has a Q&A with the hackers who claim to have assisted with the Sony hack. [Washington Post]

The CIA torture report revealed the existence of a previously unknown detainee at Guantanamo Bay detention facility, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi or prisoner 212, report Cora Currier and Margot Williams. [The Intercept]

An air of “mystery” surrounds the list of 53 political prisoners to be released as part of a deal to end hostile U.S.-Cuba relations, with the “lack of information” stoking “concern and frustration among … dissidents,” reports Daniel Trotta. [Reuters]

The International Criminal Court is “floundering,” according to the Washington Post editorial board, with many of the most shocking crimes against humanity outside the court’s reach.

“The modern international system is coming apart, and anti-democratic forces are winning;” Charles Hill explains why. [Politico Magazine]

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

Former Associate Editor at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@RParekh88).

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security