ISW Daily Update March 07, 2017

 These are the major events from March 07, 2017 in the theaters and from the trans-national groups that ISW monitors: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, and ISIS.

SYRIA: The U.S. and Russia accelerated their efforts to prevent an open confrontation between Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Northern Syria. U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford held an unprecedented trilateral meeting with Turkish Chief of the General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and Russian Chief of the General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov in Turkey to deconflict ongoing operations near Manbij in Aleppo Province. Pro-regime ‘border guards’ also reportedly assumed control of six villages on frontlines between Turkey and the SDF near Manbij as part of a deal brokered by Russia. Turkey will likely retaliate against these efforts to constrain its operations in Northern Syria.

IRAQ: Prime Minister Abadi visited the leaders of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Masoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Jalal Talabani following the PUK’s hostile takeover of the North Oil Company facility in Kirkuk on March 2 and a skirmish between the KDP and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) near Sinjar on March 3. PM Abadi’s rare visit indicates that he views the current dynamic of intra-Kurdish competition in northern Iraq as destabilizing and potentially threatening to Iraq’s territorial integrity.

AFG: Regional actors continue to undermine the U.S. and NATO missions in Afghanistan by engaging with the Taliban. A delegation from the Taliban’s political office in Qatar met with Chinese officials to discuss Afghan peace talks according to Taliban sources. This meeting follows another between China, Russia, and Pakistan in December 2016 during which they encouraged Taliban involvement in peace talks. China and Russia will likely increase cooperation on Afghanistan in order to counter U.S. influence in the region.

EGY: Economic instability continues to threaten the Egyptian regime. Hundreds of Egyptians nationwide protested the government's recent decision to change the way bread rations are managed.  Protesters blocked roads and surrounded government offices in multiple cities, though most protests dissipated quickly. Egypt's inflation rate rose above 30% in JAN 2017. The Egyptian government will implement additional austerity measures mandated by the IMF in the near future, likely leading to increased public discontent with Sisi’s regime.

RUS/UKR: Russia reasserted its control over Crimea and its Black Sea resources in order to expand its energy reserves and undermine Ukraine. The Russian government licensed a private gas and oil exploration company to explore resources located on the shelf off the coast of Crimea. Ukrainian air and naval forces have reported coming under fire from Russian forces in the area over disputed oil resources. Russia will likely continue to assert its de-facto control over these resources.

ISIS: ISIS conducted its first successful attack in India. Unidentified militants detonated a device on a train IVO Jabadiya Bheel, Madhya Pradesh, north-central India, wounding ten. The alleged leader of the group, identified as Saifullah, and one other militant engaged in a standoff with police IVO Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh more than 450 miles away. The standoff is still ongoing. ISIS’s network in India has likely strengthened as ISIS re-oriented its fighters to conduct attacks outside of core terrain.