The Early Edition: October 26, 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.

Just Security’s Three-Year Anniversary Event, “National Security and Transparency in this Administration and the Next,” is taking place on Nov.2. Join us for a wide-ranging discussion with panelists Amy Davidson (Staff Writer, The New Yorker), Jack Goldsmith (Henry L. Shattuck Professor, Harvard Law School), Jameel Jaffer (founding director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University; Former deputy legal director at the ACLU; Executive Editor, Just Security), and David McCraw (Assistant General Counsel, The New York Times). Details are available here.

IRAQ

US commanders see the Islamic State resistance strengthening as Iraqi forces get closer to Mosul, the head of US Central Command Army Gen. Joseph Votel said during a surprise visit to the Qayyarah Airfield West logistics base in Iraq last night. [NBC News’ Courtney Kube]

Iraqi special forces evacuated over 1,000 people from villages near the front lines of the operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State, the AP reports.

The US and its allies are planning to launch the operation to liberate Raqqa before the Mosul operation is done, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said yesterday. Matthew Dalton and Gordon Lubold report at the Wall Street Journal.

Carter spoke alongside French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian whom he met along with other key coalition members in Paris yesterday, Thomas Gibbons-Neff reports at the Washington Post.

Conducting major operations in both Raqqa and Mosul would stretch the coalition, a senior military official warned, reports the AP’s Lolita C. Baldor.

The Islamic State has moved hundreds of civilians from villages around Mosul to act as a human shield as security forces bear down on the city, the UN saying the militants may have killed almost 200 people, the New York Times’ Tim Arango writes.

The Islamic State’s “spoiler attacks” in towns far from Mosul have not forced the US-led coalition to divert resources from the battle to retake Mosul, US officials insisted. [AP’s Joseph Krauss and Qassim Abdul-Zahra]

The “scorched earth” tactics being employed by the Islamic State as it retreats have been captured by satellite imagery, reports Laris Karklis at the Washington Post.

There are concerns that Sunnis in Mosul may face a backlash for their perceived sympathy for the Islamic State during the offensive to recapture the city from the insurgents, who have occupied Mosul for two years, Kareem Fahim reports at the Washington Post.

Iraq’s central government in Baghdad is “tying itself to a terrorist organization” and Turkey will take whatever steps are necessary to defend its soldiers stationed at the Bashiqa military camp near Mosul, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said yesterday. [Hürriyet Daily News]

Iraq may not be fully prepared for the liberation of Mosul, analysts have warned, Baghdad’s government having not yet formalized a national strategy for stabilizing the Sunni provinces that have been liberated from the Islamic State, which should help to end Sunni exclusion and neutralize radicals, Salah Nasrawi writes at Al Jazeera.

SYRIA

The Pentagon’s Syrian civilian casualty probes are inadequate and incomplete, Amnesty International said yesterday, calling for the Pentagon to share more information on the 300 deaths it said resulted from US-led coalition airstrikes between Sep. 2014 and July 2016, some of which may have violated international humanitarian law. Missy Ryan reports at the Washington Post.

CENTCOM is aware of Amnesty International’s claims and is “currently evaluating the allegations of civilian casualties,” US Army Maj. Josh T. Jacques said in an email to The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux.

Syrian government forces are believed to have dropped barrel bombs on Turkey-backed opposition forces in the village of Tal Madiq in northern Syria, Turkish officials and reports said today. [AP]

Turkey will continue with its offensive in Syria until the Islamic State is driven from the town of al-Bab, Turkey said today, despite warnings from Syrian government-allied forces and a barrel bomb attack on rebels it supports, Tulay Karadeniz and Laila Bassam report at Reuters.

Airstrikes on the Haas village in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province killed at least 16 people today, the UN-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. [Reuters]

Spain is reviewing plans to let Russian warships refuel in its ports on the way to the eastern Mediterranean where they are expected to escalate attacks against rebels in Syria, Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 11 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Oct. 24. Separately, partner forces conducted three strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

AFGHANISTAN

The Islamic State kidnapped and killed thirty civilians in Afghanistan’s Ghor province, Ghor’s governor telling the BBC that the killings were in revenge for the death of an Islamic State commander during the operation attempting to free the civilians.

The Taliban cut off a highway linking Afghanistan’s capital Kabul to the city of Kandahar today, officials said. [Reuters]

US airstrikes in Afghanistan have increased significantly compared to last year, Josh Smith reports at Reuters.

QUETTA ATTACK

An offshoot of banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi armed group Al Alami has been blamed for the attack on a police training college in Pakistan’s Quetta that left 61 dead yesterday, senior military commander in the region Gen. Sher Afgun reporting that calls were intercepted between the attackers and their handlers, confirming this. [Al Jazeera]

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi said it cooperated with the Islamic State to carry out the attack, Saeed Shah and Qasim Nauman at the Wall Street Journal suggesting that this shows how the Islamic State can operate in new territory outside Iraq and Syria.

The attack is part of a campaign to show the Pakistani government and people that the militants are still present and ready to act, suggests  Sami Yousafzai at The Daily Beast, recounting reports that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was recently at a meeting of militant groups in Pakistan where an alliance to intensify attacks in Pakistan was agreed.

GAMBIA WITHDRAWS FROM THE ICC

Gambia has become the latest African country to announce its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, accusing the tribunal of the “persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans,” AFP reports.

Experts believe that Kenya, Namibia and Uganda could be among the next countries to leave the court, amid fears that recent exit decisions from South Africa, Burundi and now Gambia are the beginning of an African exodus from the ICC, Kevin Sieff writes at the Washington Post.

THE PHILIPPINES

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wants his country to be free of foreign troops, possibly within two years, he said today, Mari Yamaguchi at the AP inferring that he was referring to visiting US troops whose presence in the Philippines was established under a security deal signed by Duterte’s predecessor.

Duterte may scale back military ties with the US but is unlikely to end the partnership entirely, though it would be wrong to write off Duterte’s comments as pure bluster, Simon Denyer writes at the Washington Post, citing assistant professor of political science at Manila’s De La Salle University Richard Javad Heydarian.

Duterte tried to reassure Japan that his visit to China last week was about economics, not security, and that he would be on Tokyo’s side over the disputed South China Sea when the time came during his visit to Japan today, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Linda Sieg report at Reuters.

TURKEY

Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ departed for the US yesterday to hold talks on Turkey’s demand for the extradition of Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, accused of orchestrating the July 15 failed coup. [Hürriyet Daily News]

Turkey will ask the US to arrest Gülen in order to “isolate” him from his network while legal proceedings on his extradition continue, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Turkey must respect the rule of law when dealing with the security threat posed by Kurdish militants, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in a statement today, voicing concern over the detention of two leading political figures, including the mayor, in Diyarbakir in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast. [AP]

The two politicians were detained for questioning as part of a “terrorism” investigation, Turkey’s state run news agency reported. [AP]

THE UK

City of London police cordoned off several streets close to St Paul’s cathedral today after discovering a suspicious vehicle, the lockdown lasting for around an hour, Reuters reports.

The discovery of a bomb on a tube in London last week is a reminder that Britain’s vulnerability to terrorism is increasing even as – or perhaps because – the Islamic State is on the defensive in Iraq and Syria, observes the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

NORTH KOREA

Trying to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons is “probably a lost cause” and the best that can be hoped for is a cap on its nuclear capability, the Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper said yesterday. [Reuters’ David Brunnstrom]

Soaring coal prices have boosted funds to Pyongyang’s nuclear progam and undermined US efforts to force it to come to talks by cutting off its finances, Alastair Gale writes at the Wall Street Journal.

North Korea is “well on the way to becoming not just a nuclear power, but a power able to deliver a nuclear missile,” former CIA director for intelligence Jami Miscik said at a Q&A session with current and former CIA officials last month. Mary Louise Kelly at NPR reflects on this and other warnings from the intelligence community that North Korea’s nuclear program poses a genuine threat.

GUANTANAMO BAY

The indefinite detention of two Guantánamo Bay detainees was upheld by the parole board, which now has just three more initial decisions to make, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.

A Guantánamo Bay Periodic Review guide, including which detainees are “good to go,” which are “forever prisoners,” and which are “cleared and gone,” has been provided by the Miami Herald.

The USS Cole bombing case: the people, the charges, and the victims. The Miami Herald reports on the trial so far.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

A coalition of civil liberties groups is pushing the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to release information on reported surveillance of Yahoo’s email system, Joe Uchill reports at the Hill.

State actors were not behind last Friday’s cyberattack targeting internet company Dyn that briefly forced Netflix, Twitter and the New York Times offline, a report by security firm Flashpoint said. [The Hill’s Joe Uchill]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Niger Delta Avengers have bombed an oil export pipeline operated by US-based multinational Chevron in Nigeria, the AP reports.

China will carry out military drills in the South China Sea, it said today, ordering all other shipping to keep clear. [Reuters]

The US’ pattern of “seduction and abandonment” in its wars in the Middle East is one reason it is “mistrusted” in the region, David Ignatius writes at the Washington Post. 

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About the Author(s)

Zoë Chapman

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security, Legal Researcher at UK-based human rights organization, JUSTICE