The Soufan Group Morning Brief


ISIS has expanded its attacks against Iraqi and Kurdish forces across Iraq over the last week, in an effort to relieve pressure on the group’s defenses around Mosul. Forces have reportedly recaptured around 80 ISIS-held villages in the first week of the military offensive to retake Mosul. In response, ISIS has lashed out in locations other than Mosul around Iraq, including counterattacks in Kirkuk, Rutba, and Sinjar. Reuters
ISIS militants have been setting fire to oil fields and destroying buildings as they retreat from the villages and towns leading to Mosul, according to military officials. Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, the commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq, said that ISIS has attempted “some spoiling attacks, but they’re not working,” along the front lines in the Mosul campaign. The U.S.-led coalition has reportedly launched more airstrikes against ISIS in the past week than at any other time in the ongoing fight against the group in Iraq and Syria. ABC, NBC

Reuters: Sunni Arabs forced to leave Kirkuk after Islamic State attack, residents say
BuzzFeed News: The Drive Toward Mosul Gets Bloody
NPR: Near Mosul, Some Residents Flee ISIS, Others Stay And Fight With ISIS
Washington Post: These stunning photos show what the fight against ISIS has looked like

Secret law enforcement requests to conduct electronic surveillance in domestic criminal cases have significantly increased over the last five years, according to new data released by federal courts in Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. In Northern Virginia, electronic surveillance requests increased from 305 in 2011 to a rate set to exceed 1,800 requests this year. The basic docket information showed that only about one in a thousand of the surveillance applications ever becomes public. Max Kaufman, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, said “it’s hard to understand whether this surveillance is necessary or whether there is overreach without basic information about how often these orders are sought or granted, or who is granting them. Even judges themselves do not know.” Washington Post

Militants struck a hotel in northern Kenya on Tuesday, killing 12 people. According to Kenyan officials, the militants detonated a bomb inside a hotel in the town of Mandera early Tuesday morning. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack and said that all their fighters “came back to their positions safely after the operation.” New York Times
Libya: A group of around 100 ISIS fighters remain holed up in the coastal city of Sirte as U.S.-backed fighters attempt to clear the last remnants of ISIS’s stronghold in Libya. According to one U.S. defense official, it has been harder than expected “getting this last little bit,” of Sirte, because partner forces “want to be judicious and precise...without leveling entire buildings.” Washington Post
Syria: Turkish-backed forces have gained control of three areas along the border in northern Syria in the last 24 hours, according to military officials. With the help of Turkish air and artillery support, Syrian rebels secured control over the areas of Tuways, Al Gharz, and Tlatinah south of Akhtarin. Reuters

Pakistan: At least 59 people were killed and more than 100 others were wounded in an attack on a police training academy in the southwestern city of Quetta on Monday. Three gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed into the training facility with more than 200 police trainees inside. Some of the cadets were taken hostage during the five hour long attack and standoff with Pakistani security forces. Two of the attackers reportedly detonated their suicide vests and the third was shot and killed by security forces. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but authorities suspect the Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). New York Times, Reuters
VOA: Pakistan Freezes Bank Accounts of Suspected Terrorists
Germany: German authorities reportedly received warning from U.S. intelligence agencies prior to the arrest of a refugee from Syria who later committed suicide in jail. The case underscored two challenges facing Germany -- managing the security risk of the more than one million migrants and refugees who arrived in the country last year, and addressing the continued reliance on intelligence from the United States to thwart attacks. New York Times

A rotational force of around 330 U.S. Marines will be deployed to Norway in January, the Norwegian Defense Ministry announced on Monday. This will be the first time a foreign military will be posted in Norway since World War II. The move is part of an effort to increase NATO’s ability to “rapidly aggregate and employ forces in Northern Europe,” amid growing tensions with Russia. The Hill, Reuters
The Hill: US Army keeping wary eye on Russia
Will Hillary Clinton deliver on her promise to ramp up U.S. involvement in Syria?: “Throughout the campaign, Hillary Clinton has pledged to ramp up U.S. action not only to fight the Islamic State, but also to end the Syrian civil war,” writes Josh Rogin in the Washington Post. “If she does what she’s promising, the risky effort could engulf the first year of her presidency and test the limits of the United States’ reduced influence in the region.”
The Great Myth About U.S. Intervention in Syria: “As regular readers know, I do not think the United States should get more deeply involved in the tragic Syrian civil war,” writes Stephen Walt on Foreign Policy. “I’ve yet to see any of the advocates of intervention lay out a plausible blueprint for a post-civil war political order in Syria and a plausible path for getting there. The United States remains committed to dismantling Bashar al-Assad’s regime (for reasons that are not hard to understand), but we lack a serious notion of what will replace it.”
3 big problems with plans to escalate in Syria: “It’s hard to avoid fighting Russia, difficult to avoid sending large numbers of US ground troops, and virtually impossible to help your allies without also helping jihadists. Each of these issues, if mishandled, could end up making things in Syria worse rather than better,” writes Zack Beauchamp on Vox.

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Islamic State Shock and Awe in Mosul

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