News Roundup and Notes: October 16, 2015

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 

President Obama announced that he is halting the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, a sharp turnaround from his intention to leave the conflict before the end of his presidency. [New York Times’ Matthew Rosenberg and Michael D. Shear; Wall Street Journal’s Carol E. Lee]

President Obama “has found himself unable to escape conflict,” despite his aspirations as a peacemaker, writes Michael Crowley. [Politico]

The decision to remain in Afghanistan may help the Democratic bid for the White House in 2016, Nahal Toosi reports. [Politico]

The New York Times editorial board writes that President Obama has “no good options” in Afghanistan, and argues that the administration must “redouble efforts during its remaining time in office to ensure that help is rendered as a part of a coherent, realistic strategy” for the country.

The Washington Post editorial board suggests that Obama is “bow[ing] to reality” in his decision to halt the draw down. 

President Obama’s decision to halt withdrawal “appears to reflect an acknowledgement that American retrenchment can be perilous,” opines Roger Cohen. [New York Times]

An American tank has forced its way into the compound of the Médécins sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, sparking concerns that the US military may have destroyed evidence in a potential war crimes investigation, Tom McCarthy reports. [The Guardian] 

IRAQ and SYRIA 

Turkish warplanes have shot down an unidentified aircraft in Turkish airspace close to the Syrian border, the country’s military announced in a statement. [Reuters]

Syrian government forces began an offensive yesterday backed by Russian airstrikes aimed at breaking rebel control of an important highway between the cities of Homs and Hama. [New York Times’ Ben Hubbard]  The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least five civilians and six insurgents had been killed outside Homs city. [Reuters] 

The Russian and Israeli militaries have established a “hotline” to avoid an accidental clash between their respective air forces in Syrian airspace, the Russian ministry of defense said yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Nathan Hodge] 

Moscow has made some progress in the fight against ISIS, President Vladimir Putin told a meeting of ex-Soviet states today. [Reuters]

Is Russia’s intervention in Syria sustainable? Corey Flintoff considers the question at NPR.

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out eight airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Oct 14. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 17 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

China reiterated its opposition to the use of force in Syria, emphasizing that a political solution is the only way to end the conflict, China’s foreign ministry said today. [Reuters]

The EU has agreed to an action plan with Turkey that is aimed at stemming the flow of migrants to Europe. [BBC] The AP has live updates of the refugee crisis from Hungary.

The Economist discusses Russia’s arrival into Iraq, describing Vladimir Putin as the “champion of the Shias.”

ISRAEL and PALESTINE 

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he is willing to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss measures to restore the calm. And Netanyahu has criticized the US, saying that America should not draw a false symmetry between Israeli and Palestinian terrorists. [Haaretz] 

Palestinians have set fire to a Jewish tomb, Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. The IDF has condemned the incident. [Haaretz’s Jack Khoury et al]

The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber was closed off by Israeli border police yesterday, part of some of the tightest security measures put in place by Israel for years. [Wall Street Journal’s Rory Jones]

Israel plans to revoke the citizenship of Arab Israelis who have carried out recent attacks. [Haaretz] 

The UN Security Council will meet to discuss the wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians today; the meeting was called at the request of Jordan. [Al Jazeera; Reuters]

Conflicting accounts have emerged regarding a 13-year-old Arab boy wounded in ongoing violence, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas claiming the boy had been executed while Israeli authorities insisted he was in hospital recovering. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner and Robert Mackey] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Abbas of “lies and incitement.” [Washington Post’s William Booth and Sufian Taha]

The Wall Street Journal editorial board comments on Palestinian knife attacks, calling them “terrorism in its most exact and repulsive form, a potential danger for anyone who steps out the front door.”

PAKISTAN

The US and Pakistan are exploring the possibility of a deal that would limit the scope of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, the most rapidly expanding in the world. [New York Times’ David E. Sanger; Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz]

“What do we really know about Osama bin Laden’s death?” from Jonathan Mahler at the New York Times.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS 

Iran has met the deadline for supplying information to the IAEA concerning its past nuclear work, including activities which may have been military-related, the UN nuclear watchdog said. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

Two Libyan men have been named as new suspects in the investigation into the 1988 Lockerbie bombing by US and Scottish prosecutors. [BBC]  The Tripoli government has confirmed that the former spy chief of Muammar Gaddafi and another man are the new suspects in the investigation. [Reuters]

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes hit targets in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a yesterday following a Houthi rebel attack on an airbase in Saudi Arabia marking a “sudden escalation” in the conflict that has already killed 5,300 people, reports Ian Black. [The Guardian]  And the UN special envoy to Yemen has expressed optimism that peace talks between the parties to the conflict could begin by the end of the month. [New York Times’ Kareem Fahim]

Three child female suicide bombers targeted a mosque in the Nigerian city of Maiduguri, Borno state today, killing at least 39 people. No group has claimed responsibility but Boko Haram is likely behind the attack. [BBC]

A Guantánamo Bay hunger striker may be entitled to a medical panel review of his condition to establish whether he is sick enough to be released, a federal judge said yesterday. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

“The Drone Papers,” presented by The Intercept. A cache of secret documents which “document the inner workings of the US military’s assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.”

A Kosovar has been arrested on suspicion of running a hacking ring that provided stolen information of more than 1,300 US service members to ISIS. Ardit Ferizi was detained by authorities in Malaysia. [New York Times’ Eric Schmitt]

US tech firms are objecting to an international effort to prevent cyberweapons from being obtained by malicious regimes over claims that the proposals would upend the sale of legitimate spyware, reports Damian Paletta. [Wall Street Journal]

Morale levels of mixed-gender Marine Corps combat units is equal to that of all-male groups, according to a study made public this week by a women’s advocacy group. [New York Times’ Dave Philipps]

Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay have been elected to serve as non-permanent members of the UN Security Council. [UN News Centre]

The relationship between the US and China is the “greatest geopolitical question of our time,” opines Timothy Garton Ash, arguing that war will be the likely outcome if relations turn bad. [The Guardian] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security