News Roundup and Notes: December 23, 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.

IRAQ and SYRIA

Iraqi forces are engaged in fighting as the battle to reclaim Ramadi from the Islamic State enters its second day. Iraqi officials expressed optimism that the city would be recaptured by the weekend, though US officials gave a more cautious prognosis. [New York Times’ Omar Al-Jawoshy et al; BBC]

The battle for Ramadi is a key test for the Obama administration’s strategy against ISIS, write Austin Wright and Nahal Toosi, with commentators describing the potential win as a “significant victory.” [Politico]

Eight senior ISIS commanders have been killed by Iraqi military airstrikes, according to local state TV. [Reuters]

A debate is taking place over US rules of engagement in the fight against ISIS, the White House so far resisting calls from Republican critics to loosen the tight restrictions currently in place, report Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan. [Washington Post]

Russian airstrikes in Syria have killed at least 200 civilians, according to a new report from Amnesty International, accusing Moscow of using cluster munitions and unguided bombs in civilian areas, attacks Amnesty says may constitute war crimes. [BBC] 

US-led airstrikes continue. US and partner forces carried out eight strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Dec. 21. Separately, coalition forces conducted a further 17 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

The UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding that all parties to the Syrian conflict immediately open routes across conflict lines and frontiers to allow access for humanitarian aid. [UN News Centre]

The New York Times editorial board comments on the UN Security Council’s unanimous approval of a resolution supporting the Syria peace process, observing that while it is a “positive development,” “it leaves unsettled crucial differences that have long plagued Syrian peacemaking efforts.”

“How Saddam Hussein gave us ISIS,” from Kyle W. Orton at the New York Times.

AFGHANISTAN

British forces are being sent to Helmand to assist the Afghan military as it struggles to hold back a Taliban assault on the town of Sangin. It is the first time in 14 months that British forces have been deployed there. [The Guardian’s Sune Engel et al] 

The identities of the six US service members killed by a Taliban suicide attack near Bagram air base have been revealed. Barbara Goldberg reports for Reuters.

The UN Security Council condemned “in the strongest terms” the Taliban attack, saying that “no violent or terrorist acts can reverse the path towards Afghan-led peace, democracy and stability.” [UN News Centre]

An intelligence gap in Afghanistan is being cited as fueling the resurgence of extremism in that country, report Jessica Donati and Mergherita Stancati, with US spy assets far fewer than at the height of American presence five years ago. [Wall Street Journal]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS 

Cameroon security forces have killed at least 70 residents while chasing Boko Haram militants in Borno state, northeastern Nigeria, villagers say. [AP]

The US has imposed further sanctions on Russia for its intervention in Ukraine in the hopes of pressuring Moscow into compliance with the Minsk Agreements. [New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis]

The Navy SEALs do not plan to alter their physical fitness requirements as they prepare to open their ranks to women for the first time in 2016. [Navy Times’ Meghann Myers]

French authorities have foiled a terror plot aimed at police and military personnel in the Orleans region, according to the interior minister. [BBC]

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has blamed the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen for the “disproportionate amount” of strikes resulting in the deaths of civilians. [UN News Centre] 

President Obama marked five years since the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed yesterday, committing to work for the remaining duration of his presidency to combat discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. [New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis]

Secretary of State John Kerry is coming under fire from House Republicans over his comments suggesting that the US could waive new visa restrictions to assist foreigners doing business with Iran. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

A detailed list of potential US targets for atomic bombers during the Cold War has been released by the National Archives and Records Administration for the first time. Scott Shane provides the details. [New York Times]

Burkina Faso’s military court has issued an international arrest warrant for the country’s former President Blaise Compaore for his alleged role in the assassination of his predecessor. [AP] 

To capture terrorists in Europe, the “EU needs better intelligence cooperation and a closer relationship with the US, its main ally in the fight against terrorism,” opines Camino Mortera-Martinez. [Wall Street Journal]

There are some concrete steps that the Pentagon could take, suggests Rob Albritton, which could help it to remedy its broken personnel system. [War on the Rocks]  

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security