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Briefing :- 20/7/17

Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 20th of July, 2017 :-

1. My election is a message to those who work with honesty: President-elect Ram Nath Kovind :-

India’s newly elected President Ram Nath Kovind, in his first address after the election results were announced, said that he will work towards the betterment of the marginalised sections of society.

“Thoughts of serving my country have brought me this far. My job will be to uphold and protect the Constitution,” he said.

He also said that his election is a message for those who work with honesty.

“My elevation to the highest office is a message for the people who do their work with honest. I will represent the working class and poor sections of the society. This is the novelty of Indian democracy that today I am elected the President of the country,” he added.

Ram Nath Kovind won the presidential election getting 65.65 per cent votes.

“Kovind secured 2930 votes with a value of 7,02,044. Meira Kumar got 1,844 votes with the value of 3,67,314, and 77 votes were invalid,” said Anoop Mishra, the returning officer for the Presidential election 2017.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the President-elect Ram Nath Kovind and congratulated him on his victory.

2. After Mosul, Islamic State digs in for guerrilla warfare :-

Islamic State militants began reinventing themselves months before US-backed Iraqi forces ended their three-year reign of terror in Mosul, putting aside the dream of a modern-day caliphate and preparing the ground for a different fight.

Intelligence and local officials said that, a few months ago, they noticed a growing stream of commanders and fighters flowing out of the city to the Hamrin mountains in northeast Iraq which offer hideouts and access to four Iraqi provinces.

Some were intercepted but many evaded security forces and began setting up bases for their new operations.

What comes next may be a more complex and daunting challenge for Iraqi security forces once they finish celebrating a hard-won victory in Mosul, the militants’ biggest stronghold.

Intelligence and security officials are bracing for the kind of devastating insurgency al Qaeda waged following the 2003 US-led invasion, pushing Iraq into a sectarian civil war which peaked in 2006-2007.

“They are digging in. They have easy access to the capital,” Lahur Talabany, a top Kurdish counter-terrorism official, told Reuters. As part of the US-led coalition, he is at the forefront of efforts to eliminate Islamic State.

“I believe we have tougher days coming.”

Some Iraqi Islamic State fighters have roots dating back to al Qaeda’s campaign of car and suicide bombs that exploded by the dozens each day and succeeded in fueling a sectarian bloodbath in Iraq, a major oil producer and key US ally.

When a US-funded tribal initiative crushed al-Qaeda, the hardcore regrouped in the desert between Iraq and Syria. They reappeared with a new jihadist brand that took the world by surprise: Islamic State.

Shortly after its lighting sweep through Mosul, the group outdid al Qaeda’s brutality, carrying out mass beheadings and executions as it imposed its ultra-hardline ideology.

Unlike al-Qaeda, it seized a third of Iraqi territory, gaining knowledge of land that could come in handy as it hits back at Iraqi security forces.

SADDAM’S INTELLIGENCE AGENTS

Former Iraq intelligence officers who served under Saddam Hussein joined forces with Islamic State in an alliance of convenience. These shrewd military strategists from his Baath Party are expected to be the new generation of Islamic State leaders, Talabany and other security officials said.

Instead of trying to create a caliphate, a concept which attracted recruits from disaffected fellow Sunni Muslims, Islamic State leaders will focus on far less predictable guerrilla warfare, Iraqi and Kurdish security officials said.

Iraqi forces have come a long way since they collapsed in the face of the Islamic State advance in 2014, throwing down their weapons and removing their military uniforms in panic.

They fought for nearly nine months to seize Mosul, with steady help from US-led airstrikes that flattened entire neighbourhoods.

The key question is whether an army that is far more comfortable with conventional warfare can take on an insurgency with sleeper cells and small units of militants who pop out of deserts and mountains, carry out attacks and melt away.

“They’ll try to hide with the population. Their cells will get smaller – instead of companies and platoons, they’ll go to squads and cells, much smaller elements hiding in the population,” Lieutenant-General Steve Townsend, commander of the US-led coalition, told reporters.

“Our Iraqi security force partners will have to engage in counter-insurgency style operations at some point and we’re already making efforts now to start shaping their training towards that next ISIS tactic.”

History suggests training may not be enough. The United States spent $25 billion on the Iraqi military during the American occupation that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003 and triggered an insurgency that included al Qaeda.

That did not prepare the army for the long-haired Islamic State militants who sped into Mosul in pickup trucks with weapons stolen from retreating Iraqi troops. Iraqi forces can certainly point to successes in Mosul and the cities of Falluja and Ramadi in Anbar province, once held by Islamic State.

But local officials say the cities remain vulnerable to attacks from the vast desert nearby mastered by militants.

“Security operations will be useless unless security forces control the desert,” said Anbar official Emad Dulaimi, adding that the desert had become a safe haven for Islamic State. “It is not present as an organization in cities but it carries out attacks by individuals. Car bombs. Suicide bombers. People fear Islamic State will come back. There are attacks every day.”

Tareq Youssef al-Asal, leader of a tribal force, shares those concerns and complains of what he says is a lack of a coordination among numerous local security forces.

“In the end these leaderships have no experience fighting in the desert,” he said.

Some ordinary citizens still do not feel safe despite the Iraqi army’s improved performance.

Anbar resident Ahmed al-Issawy does not plan on re-opening his restaurant anytime soon. He is afraid it will be destroyed the same way it was in clashes between security forces and Islamic State in 2014. “I am afraid there could be an attack at any second,” he said.

Islamic State has not wasted any time in implementing its new strategy despite a major loss in Mosul.

3. If China unilaterally changes status quo in Dokalam, it challenges India’s security: Sushma Swaraj :-

India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has said that if Beijing unilaterally changes the status quo at the tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan, then it poses a challenge to New Delhi’s security.

She was responding to Samajwadi Party’s Naresh Agrawal who questioned the government on the Dokalam standoff.

She added that all the countries including Bhutan support India’s stand on the Dokalam issue.

“India wants that troops are removed from the tri-junction point to discuss the issue together. All countries, including Bhutan, are with us,” Sushma said in Rajya Sabha.

Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in a standoff in the Dokalam plateau area near the India, Bhutan and China tri-junction.

4. Donald Trump Jr to testify before Senate panel next week :-

President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort will testify on July 26 before the US Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel said in a statement on Wednesday.

Trump Jr and Manafort are expected to be questioned about allegations Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

This is a developing story – stay tuned for more details.

5. Fate of 39 missing Indians unclear, Iraqi envoy to India :-

There is no confirmation whether the 39 Indians missing in Iraq since June 2014 are dead or alive, Iraq’s ambassador in India Fakhri Al-Issa told WION in an interview.

The Iraqi envoy’s remarks come four days after external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj cited unnamed sources as telling her deputy, junior foreign minister General VK Singh, during his recent visit to Erbil, Mosul and Baghdad “that the missing Indians are most probably in a jail in Badush where fighting is still going on”.

“Personally, I have no information (about whether the Indians might be in Badush jail),” the envoy said in the interview. “I have not received any confirmed information from my government.”

His remarks seem to be at variance with the information shared by the Indian government with the families of the 39 Indians who called on Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on Sunday, 16 July.

Swaraj had said on the occasion that “once the fighting stops in Badush and the area is cleared, we can probably find out the whereabouts of the missing nationals”.

In contrast, the Iraqi envoy maintains that the fate of the 39 missing Indians is unknown. “It is unknown for us. And sometimes as I said before no news is good news. So let’s hope they are still alive,” the Iraqi envoy said.

The envoy’s words might come as a disappointment for the families of the missing Indians; they have not had closure for more than three years now.

According to him, thousands of Iraqis are missing, too, and the fear is that Daesh or the so-called Islamic State could have used some of those missing Indians and Iraqi nationals as slave labour or human shields.

He said it is “quite possible” they might be in Raqqa, the Syrian town which has emerged as the de-facto capital of the so-called Islamic State.

Ahead of Iraqi foreign minister Dr Ibrahim Abdul-Kareem Hamza Al-Eshaiker Al-Jaafari’s visit to New Delhi, the Iraqi ambassador says that his country wants India to “play a major role” in rebuilding his war-torn country. Mosul, for example, is in ruins and would require upwards of $100 billion to rebuild it from the ground up in order to facilitate the return of displaced Iraqis.

In particular, the envoy said Iraq would welcome India’s humanitarian assistance in the form of medical treatment for wounded Iraqi soldiers and civilians.

Asked about whether the defeat of the Islamic State necessarily means that the ideology is vanquished, too, the Iraqi envoy asserts that “it is the responsibility of the whole world” to combat the ideology that spawned terrorist groups such as the Islamic State in the first place.

“We all know where this ideology is coming from… we all know who is supporting and funding them… and giving them safe haven and allowing them to move freely,” he said in an oblique reference to some countries in West Asia.

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