ISW Daily Update March 10, 2017
These are the major events from March 10, 2017 in the theaters and from the trans-national groups that ISW monitors: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, and ISIS.
SYR: Russia and Turkey continue to normalize bilateral relations. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan met at the Sixth Turkish-Russian High-Level Cooperation Council in Moscow to discuss economic ties, joint investments, energy and military cooperation, and an end to trade restrictions imposed after Turkey downed a Russian fighter jet in November 2015. Russia recently brokered a deal with the primarily Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to block Erdogan from further expansion in Northern Aleppo Province, indicating the extent to which this normalization is based on short-term economic interest rather than deep strategic alignment.
IRAQ: Senior Iraqi Sunni political leaders are attempting to unify Sunni political parties for upcoming elections. Mutahidun leader Osama al-Nujaifi and senior Iraqi Sunni Baath party-linked powerbroker Khamis al-Khanjar met with other leaders in Ankara, Turkey and announced plans to form a “broad electoral commission.” The meeting coincided with an announcement by Turkish President Erdogan, at a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, to allocate "20 billion dollars" to Iraqi refugees in Turkey, who are majority Sunni. It is unclear at this time if these events are connected.
AFG: U.S. military leaders are calling to increase U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan to bolster Resolute Support's train, advise, and assist mission. Head of the U.S. Central Command General Joseph Votel stated additional troops are needed to meet security challenges in Afghanistan, echoing earlier requests from Resolute Support Commander General John Nicholson in FEB 2017. Separately, ISIS militants responsible for the 08 MAR attack on the Sardar Daud Khan Military Hospital in Kabul likely had support from elements within the Afghan government, increasing the complexity of the attack.
RUS/UKR: The Kremlin is likely pursuing formal annexation of the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Ossetian President Leonid Tibilov are expected to meet in mid-March 2017 to discuss the formal integration of the South Ossetian military into the Russian army. Russia's annexation of South Ossetia would constitute a significant step-change in Russia's policy towards separatist republics across the former Soviet Union and be the first of these structures to formally join the Russian Federation.
ISIS: Three unattributed violent incidents in Europe may indicate an attempt by ISIS to offset losses in Iraq and Syria. Unidentified gunmen killed two and injured one in a café near Basel, Switzerland. The An-Nur Mosque in Winterthur, Switzerland drew attention to local radicalization in NOV 16. Separately, two individuals attacked bystanders with melee weapons in separate incidents near Dusseldorf, Germany. Authorities have not connected ISIS to the attacks. A prominent ISIS-linked German-language Telegram channel came online after a three month hiatus the same day, indicating ISIS intends to stoke violence at this time.