The Early Edition: October 27, 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

The Iraqi army was trying to reach a town south of Mosul where the Islamic State has executed dozens of civilians today, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Stephen Kalin report at Reuters.

The operation to retake Raqqa will begin soon, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told NBC News.

The Raqqa operation must begin within weeks to disrupt plans believed to be underway there to stage terrorist attacks on the West, senior Defense Department officials said yesterday. [New York Times’ Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt]

The Pentagon plans to use Kurdish forces, despite opposition from NATO ally Turkey, so great is the “sense of urgency” over the Raqqa operation, Nancy A. Youssef writes at The Daily Beast.

Raqqa is likely to be tougher than Mosul. Ivan Watson explains why at CNN.

Clearing the Islamic State from villages surrounding Mosul is proving to be a slow and risky mission, writes Reuters’ Michael Georgy, and ultimately securing Mosul could take months.

Sunnis have paid the highest price in the war begun by the Islamic State, the attack on Kirkuk last week, which quickly ended in failure for the Islamic State, an indication of the Sunnis’ waning support for the group they once viewed as liberators, Yaroslav Trofimov writes at the Wall Street Journal.

Around 800 – 900 Islamic State fighters have been killed in the Mosul offensive so far, AFP reports via Twitter.

SYRIA

Repeated airstrikes hit a school compound in a rebel-held part of northern Syria yesterday, leaving dozens of people dead including many children, Rick Gladstone reports at the New York Times.

The airstrikes bore the hallmark of an air raid conducted by either the Assad regime or its ally Russia, Hugh Naylor reports at the Washington Post.

UNICEF called the airstrikes an “outrage” and a potential war crime, suggesting it may be the deadliest attack on a school since the outbreak of Syria’s civil war. [AP]

The Russian ambassador to the UN verbally attacked the UN humanitarian chief after he accused Russia and Syria of using bombing and starvation tactics in eastern Aleppo to force people to surrender or die yesterday, the AP reports.

The UN Security Council’s failure to stop the bombing of eastern Aleppo is “our generation’s shame,” UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien also said yesterday, envoys from the US, UK and France defending the UN and placing the blame on Russia and its ally Assad. Julian Borger reports at the Guardian.

Russia canceled its request to refuel its Syria-bound warships at a Spanish port yesterday, according to Russian media, amid mounting criticism of Madrid from NATO’s secretary general and the UK’s defense minister, Thomas Gibbons-Neff reports at the Washington Post.

Suggestions from NATO that Russia’s battle group in the Mediterranean would join the bombardment of Aleppo were dismissed as absurd by the Russian Foreign Ministry today. [Reuters]

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out three airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Oct. 25. Separately, partner forces conducted eight strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

AFGHANISTAN

Senior al-Qaeda leaders Farouq al-Qahtani and Bilal al-Utabi were targeted by a US drone strike in northeastern Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced yesterday. A statement said the Defense Department is continuing to assess whether the two men were killed in the attack. [AP]

What is the role for the Hezb-i-Islami (HIG) party in Afghanistan following the Sep. 29 peace agreement with the Afghan government? Al Jazeera speaks to the group’s chief negotiator, Muhammad Amin Karim.

YEMEN

A US airstrike successfully targeted members of al-Qaeda in a remote area of Marid Governorate, Yemen, on Oct. 21. [US Central Command]

A UN peace proposal for Yemen seems aimed at excluding exiled President Abd-Rabbu Manour Hadi and setting up a government composed of less divisive politicians, Reuters suggests.

RUSSIA

A sophisticated plan by Russia to politically destabilize Ukraine was revealed in several documents from a top Kremlin official leaked by Ukrainian hacker CyberJuna on Tuesday, the Hill’s Nikita Vladimirov reports.

Financial and political ties between Moscow and separatist rebels in Eastern Ukraine also appear to be shown by the leaked documents, Howard Amos reports at the AP.

The UK will deploy tanks and drones and 800 troops in Eastern Europe as the first of several expected moves by NATO to help counter fears over increasing Russian aggression in the region, Julian E. Barnes reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Congress will play a major role in countering Russia and navigating the US’s relationship with President Putin by focusing time and resources on legislation and oversight to safeguard US interests and influence abroad, suggests Jason Bruder at POLITICO.

TURKEY

Turkey detained 45 military pilots and formally arrested 29 who had previously been detained as part of the ongoing post-coup purge of suspected Gulenists today, the AP reports.

Turkey’s President Erdoğan is using expansionist rhetoric to argue that Turkey has a say in the battle for Iraq’s Mosul, but his target audience is potential voters back home ahead of an impending referendum on the nature of his presidency, not Iraqi officials, Zia Weise suggests at POLITICO.

SOMALIA

Dozens of Islamic State fighters took over the Somali town of Qandala on the Gulf of Aden yesterday, according to officials and residents. Jeffrey Gettleman reports at the New York Times.

The Islamic State is presenting a softer face to try to recruit fighters from al-Shabaab in Somalia, observes Heidi Vogt at the Wall Street Journal.

NORTH KOREA

The US, Japan and South Korea agreed to work together to put increased pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs today, Reuters reports.

Did North Korea just try to launch two long-range missiles capable of hitting the US mainland? Anna Fifield at the Washington Post speaks to the experts asking this question.

GUANTANAMO BAY

A lawsuit seeking a ruling clearing him of accusations of terrorism filed by former Guantánamo Bay detainee Shawali Khan was thrown out by a federal judge yesterday because Khan, who was repatriated to Afghanistan in 2014, is no longer in US custody. Charlie Savage reports at the New York Times.

Miami Herald journalist Carol Rosenberg is suing the Pentagon over its delay in providing staffing levels at Guantánamo Bay, James Rosen reports at the Miami Herald.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

The State Department is months behind on a request to explain the disappearance of the emails of former IT aid Bryan Pagliano who was responsible for many aspects of Hillary Clinton’s private server setup, the Hill’s Julian Hattem reports.

The cyberattack on company Dyn which brought down much of the US’s internet last week was likely the largest of its kind in history, experts said. Nicky Woolf reports at the Guardian.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The US abstained from a vote on a UN resolution calling for an end to the US embargo on Cuba, the first time America has abstained from the annual vote of the UN General Assembly, Felicia Schwartz and Farnaz Fassihi report at the Wall Street Journal. Israel also abstained from the vote.

The recalling of enlistment bonuses from California National Guard members which may have been paid improperly was suspended by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who ordered a review of the process, Connor O’Brien reports at POLITICO.

Two Americans were detained in northwestern Tunisia on suspicion of involvement with a terrorist organization, Carlotta Gall reports at the New York Times.

A Syrian teenager scouted out potential attack sites in Berlin on behalf of the Islamic State, German prosecutors said. [AP]

India will expel a Pakistan High Commission official for “espionage activities,” India’s foreign ministry said, after he was briefly held in New Delhi yesterday. [Al Jazeera]  The Pakistani diplomat, who was detained outside the gates of Delhi Zoo, is alleged to have run a spying operation that accessed sensitive information about Indian security operations along its border, officials said today. [Reuters]

South Korea will restart talks with Japan on a military intelligence-sharing pact four years after a previous agreement was canceled amid domestic outcry, Choe Sang-Hun reports at the New York Times.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will meet with leaders of the Niger Delata in Abuja next week to attempt to end an insurgency in the region, Reuters reports.

Why have African states started leaving the ICC? Cara Anna takes a look at what it all means at the AP.

As the Obama administration has backed away from support for democratic change in the Middle East, so has Bahrain, observes the Washington Post editorial board.

What should the “modernization” of the US’s nuclear forces look like? This is the subject of debate at the New York Times 

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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