The Early Edition: June 20, 2016

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

The Kremlin is denying that Russian jets bombed US-backed Syrian rebels last week. Russian defense ministry officials claimed their airstrikes occurred hundreds of kilometers from “territories claimed by the American party as ones controlled by the opposition.” American fighter jets sent to the scene after the initial rounds of bombings attempted to contact the Russian jets to no avail, Pentagon officials told CNN, who added that as soon as US planes departed the area to refuel, Russian attack jets returned and resumed airstrike.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released photos showing what appear to be remnants of Russian munitions, including cluster bombs, at the rebel base of Al-Tanf near the Syria-Jordan border, notes Thomas Gibbons-Neff in The Washington Post.

The “Dissent Channel” cable sent by 51 American diplomats last week urging for US airstrikes against the Assad regime stirred things up in DC, but is unlikely to change US policy, writes AP’s Bradley Klapper. “Reasons abound for why an intervention is improbable, not least the vague military objective and risks for U.S. service personnel,” notes Klapper. More here. 

Iraqi forces continue to fight to reclaim Fallujah from the Islamic State despite Baghdad’s claim that the city is under Iraqi control again. The Iraqi military reached the center of the city on Friday and has been pushing outward into the rest of Fallujah since. [CNN]

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Saturday, just days after the alleged Russian bombing of US-backed rebels who are said to b fighting the Islamic State, via AP

US-led airstrikes continue in Syria and Iraq. Coalition aircraft struck 12 Islamic State targets in Syrian on June 16. The same day, 10 Islamic State targets were struck by coalition forces using both air and ground weapons. [US Central Command]

AFGHANISTAN

The US military conducted an airstrike on Islamic State militants in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday. American officials are releasing few details about the operation. “The strike was part of the U.S. military’s continued counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan, and not related to the recent expansion of American combat capabilities in the country,” said a US military spokesman. Afghan officials say 27 militants were killed in what they say was a drone strike and that no civilians were killed. [Stars and Stripes]

Suicide bombers killed at least 22 people in Afghanistan today. One attack occurred against a bus carrying Nepali security contractors in Kabul, the other in the northern province of Badakhshan, via Reuters.

CYBERSECURITY, TECHNOLOGY, and SURVEILLANCE

The UK’s proposed Investigatory Powers Bill could create massive pools of data that make a tempting target for hackers, warns a Parliamentary committee in a new report about the piece of spy legislation.

While some are calling for more surveillance in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Orlando, a county in the heart of Silicon Valley adopted an ordinance limiting the surveillance tools its law enforcement agencies are allowed to use while increasing public transparency regarding the use of such tools. [Palo Alto Online and The Denver Post]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

US Central Command officially acknowledged conducting three “counterterrorism strikes” in Yemen during the week of June 8- 12. The strikes killed a total of six alleged al-Qaeda militants and injured a seventh, according to Central Command’s website. On June 3, Central Command officials acknowledged that the US had at the time conducted nine airstrikes in Yemen over the course of 2016, killing 108 al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operatives, none of whom were high value targets. [Stars and Stripes]

More than 65 million people have been displaced by conflict worldwide, according to the UN’s refugee agency’s latest Global Trends Report. This figure, larger than the population of Great Britain, represents an all-time high in recorded history. “They include those fleeing marauders in South Sudan, drug gangs in Central America, and the Islamic State in the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Falluja,” writes Somini Sengupta in The New York Times. “While most are displaced within their own countries, an unprecedented number are seeking political asylum in the world’s rich countries. Nearly 100,000 are children who have attempted the journey alone.”  

Donald Trump reiterated his calls for profiling Muslims in the US over the weekend. He also seemed to downplay any split between himself and the NRA on the idea of barring people on terrorist watch lists from buying guns. [The New York Times]

The Obama administration should allow the UN Special Rapporteur on torture to inspect the Guantánamo detention facility. Doing so would “create a fuller historical record of the conduct of the American government after 9/11,” in light of the administrations failed efforts to close the site, writes The New York Times editorial board.

Germany’s foreign minister warned against Western saber rattling towards Russia as NATO forces, including Germany, conduct military exercises on Russia’s doorstep. 31,000 troops from 24 nations conducted “defensive exercises” in Poland and Lithuania last week. [The Washington Post] 

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