Afghanistan/United States/Taliban – Three American troops have been wounded after an Afghan soldier opened fire on them at a base in the southern province of Helmand, the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said, as separate attacks and clashes across the country left dozens dead. A spokesman for the Afghan military in the south of the country said the Afghan Special Forces soldier was shot dead after firing at the Americans at Camp Shorab air base on the 19 Mar 17. "The guard lost his life in exchange of fire," Mohammad Rasoul Zazai said. The soldiers are receiving medical care, the NATO-led training and assistance mission said on Twitter. So-called "green-on-blue" insider attacks by Afghan soldiers on international service members were a major problem several years ago, but now occur less frequently after security measures were improved and the number of foreign troops in the country fell sharply. In May 16 two Romanian soldiers were killed and a third wounded after two members of a local Afghan police unit they were training shot them. Camp Shorab in Helmand, previously known as Camp Bastion, is a major former US and British base now run by the Afghan army. Elsewhere in Afghanistan, Taliban fighters attacked a district headquarters in the Kandahar province using a suicide car bomb, said Samim Khpolwak, a spokesman for the governor. A security official said six police were killed and five others were wounded in the assault. In the southern Zabul province, an army operation killed 13 Taliban and wounded 11 others, said Gen. Sadiqullah Saberi. Two Taliban commanders were killed in an apparent US drone strike in the Barmal district of the eastern Paktika province, said Mohammad Rahman Ayaz, spokesman for the provincial governor. Another 10 fighters were killed in a separate drone strike in the Dand-e Patan district of neighbouring Paktia province, said Gov. Zelmai Wessa.
Afghanistan/Taliban Recruits – The Taliban claimed that 67 “Mujahideen” have graduated from two training camps located in the northwestern Afghan province of Faryab. The group has publicized 12 training facilities throughout the country since late 2014 it was reported on the 20 Mar 17. Forty of the fighters graduated on March 18 from “a military camp – Intiqam Giran-e-Quran – in the surroundings of Shirin Tagab district” in Faryab, according to the Taliban. The statement was released on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official propaganda website. “Mujahideen received training about usage of heavy and light weapons, target shooting, information regarding military tolls and explosive materials in the camp,” according to Voice of Jihad. A photograph of a group of Taliban fighters in uniform pointing their AK-47s down range accompanied the brief statement, however it is unclear if it is a stock photo or from the Faryab camp. In the past, the Taliban has released videos accompanying the announcements of their training camps. Shirin Tagab district is one of the seven districts contested by the Taliban. In July 2016, reported that at least 35 villages were under Taliban control. In Feb. 2017, the Taliban took control of another village in the district after killing five local policemen. In a second statement, released on the 17 Mar 17 the Taliban said that “as many as 27 Mujahideen were graduated from Khalid-Bin-Walik military camp on Thursday.” However the title of the statement identified the facility as “Khalid-Bin-Walid,” which appears to be one of 12 feeder camps identified by the Taliban in late 2015. Faryab province is a known haven for the Taliban. Of the province’s 15 districts, seven are contested by the Taliban and one more is Taliban-controlled, according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal. The Taliban used these districts to launch an assault on Maimana, the provincial capital. While Afghan forces prevented the fall of Maimana, they failed to eject the Taliban from the surrounding districts.
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Afghanistan/Taliban – The Taliban have captured the crucial south Afghan city of Sangin after a year-long battle, officials have said on the 23 Nov 17. Government forces say they have made a tactical retreat from the centre of Sangin. A spokesman for Helmand's governor confirmed the district police and governor's headquarters were now in militant hands. Hundreds of members of the Afghan security forces died there in recent fighting. Separately, at least nine local policemen were killed in an "insider" attack in Kunduz in the north early on Thursday. A guard who officials say was linked to the Taliban reportedly gave access to insurgents at a security checkpoint located on the Kunduz-Kabul highway. The attackers took weapons and ammunition with them. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said the insurgents had captured the city and "key outposts" overnight. Taliban forces had already surrounded the district headquarters. A spokesman for the Afghan defence ministry said troops had been pulled back to their main garrison on the orders of the army chief of staff. Reports say foreign forces have begun bombarding the area, which has been fiercely fought over for more than a decade. Sangin's capture shows the Taliban's growing strength in the south and it has symbolic significance for the US and NATO, which lost more soldiers there than in any other district in Afghanistan. There are now two possibilities. Afghan troops, with the help of US Special Forces and aerial bombing, might try to recapture Sangin, following a pattern seen elsewhere. Or the government will leave the city to the Taliban - as they have done with a few other districts in Helmand, a centre of the insurgency - and focus on defending the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.
Afghanistan/NATO/Russia – Russia is “perhaps” supplying the Taliban as they fight US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, a top US general said on the 23 Mar 17. General Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s supreme allied commander who also heads the US military’s European Command, told lawmakers he had seen Russian influence expand in multiple regions, including in Afghanistan. “I have seen the influence of Russia of late – an increased influence – in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban,” Scaparrotti told the Senate Armed Services Committee, without elaborating. NATO troops have been fighting in Afghanistan since a US-led invasion in late 2001, following the September 11 attacks. About 13,000 NATO service members are in Afghanistan, the bulk of them American, under its Resolute Support training mission. Scaparrotti’s comment goes one step further than remarks last month by General John Nicholson, the US commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan. Nicholson testified that Russia is giving the Taliban encouragement and diplomatic cover in order to undermine US influence and to defeat NATO, but he did not address whether Russia is supplying the Islamist insurgents. The United States in the 1980s supplied the Mujahideen, parts of which ultimately became the Taliban, with high-tech weapons as they battled the Soviet Union. After more than 15 years of war, US generals say the Afghanistan conflict is stuck in a “stalemate,” with the Taliban continuing to carry broad regional influence and NATO-backed Afghan security forces struggling to make progress. Taliban fighters captured the strategic southern district of Sangin on the 23 Mar 17 another setback for Afghan forces in opium-rich Helmand province ahead of the spring fighting season.
Afghanistan/United States/al-Qaeda – A US counterterrorism airstrike earlier in Mar 17 in Afghanistan killed an al-Qaeda leader responsible for a deadly hotel attack in Islamabad in 2008 and the 2009 attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team, the Pentagon said on the 25 Mar 17. In confirming the death of Qari Yasin, US officials said Yasin was a senior terrorist figure from Balochistan, Pakistan, had ties to the group Tehrik-e Taliban and had plotted multiple al-Qaeda terror attacks. The airstrike that led to his death was conducted on the 19 Mar 17 in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. Yasin plotted the 20 Sep 08, bombing on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that killed dozens, officials said. The victims included two American service members, Air Force Maj. Rodolfo I. Rodriguez of El Paso, Texas, and Navy Cryptologic Technician 3rd Class Petty Officer Matthew J. O'Bryant of Theodore, Alabama, U.S. officials said. The bus attack in the Pakistani city of Lahore killed six Pakistani policemen and two civilians and wounded six members of the cricket team. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said in the statement: "The death of Qari Yasin is evidence that terrorists who defame Islam and deliberately target innocent people will not escape justice." The killing of Yasin in eastern Afghanistan lends credence to Pakistani claims that its militant enemies have found sanctuaries there. The neighbouring countries routinely charge each other with harbouring the other's enemies. Relations deteriorated earlier this year after a series of attacks in Pakistan that killed 125 people led Islamabad to close its border with Afghanistan for more than one month. The two countries have exchanged lists of insurgents hiding out on the other's soil and Afghanistan has also given Pakistan the locations of 23 sanctuaries where its Taliban militants are hiding. Kabul is demanding they be closed.
Bangladesh/Da’esh/Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) – At least two civilians and one policeman were killed by explosions during an anti-terror operation in northeast Bangladesh. The country's Daily Star newspaper reported on the 25 Mar 17 that two civilians were killed and another 26 injured when a blast ripped through the Shibbari area of Sylhet city as paramilitary commandos and SWAT carried out a raid on a suspected 'extremist' hideout. A second blast in front of the hideout killed a policeman and left five others injured, it added. Armed forces spokesman Colonel Rashidul Hasan said that 78 people, who were trapped in the five-storey building, had been rescued after a more than 30-hour standoff. Acting on a tip-off, police said they raided the building early on the 24 Mar 17 and cordoned off the area after the attackers detonated small bombs. "The operation began at 0700 hrs local (0100 hrs GMT) in the morning and was still going on," Hasan said, adding the commandos "exchanged fire" with the attackers who were confined to a ground-floor apartment of the building. The spokesman did not say how many people were in the building, but police said there were at least two, including a woman. The raid comes after a series of suicide attacks during Mar 17 including one at a police checkpoint near the country's main international airport on the night of the 24 Mar 17. Two of the attacks, including the 24 Mar blast in which the suicide attacker was killed, were claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group. ISIL has also claimed responsibility for a wave of killings since 2015 including a major attack on a Dhaka cafe last year in which 22 people, including 18 foreign hostages, were killed. The Bangladeshi government denies ISIL has any presence in the country, arguing instead that a new faction of Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) was behind that and other attacks.
North Korea/United States – The US has said its policy of "strategic patience" with North Korea is over and suggested it might decide to take pre-emptive military action it was reported on the 17 Mar 17. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the option was "on the table" if the threat from the North's weapons programme reached a level requiring it. During a visit to South Korea, he also said the US was exploring a range of new diplomatic and economic measures. And he defended the deployment of a US missile system in South Korea. The move has angered China but South Korea and the US say the system is needed to defend against North Korea. US President Donald Trump tweeted that North Korea was "behaving very badly" and had been "playing" the US "for years". "China has done little to help!" he added. Mr Tillerson spoke shortly after visiting the demilitarised zone which divides the two Koreas. He arrived in South Korea from Japan, where he had said that 20 years of efforts aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions had failed. Asked if the possibility for military action existed, he said: "Certainly we do not want to, for things to get to military conflict." But he added: "If they elevate the threat of their weapons programme to a level that we believe requires action, then that option's on the table." North Korea has conducted nuclear and missile tests in recent years, and says it is close to testing long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads and reaching the US. The US has accused China, North Korea's main ally, of not doing enough to rein it in but Beijing remains wary of any action that could destabilise the North Korean government and potentially create chaos on its border. During his address in Seoul, Mr Tillerson called on China to fully implement sanctions imposed by the UN in response to North Korea's nuclear and missile tests. "I don't believe we have ever fully achieved the maximum level of action that can be taken under the UN Security Council resolution with full participation of all countries," he said. China is also strongly opposed to the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) system in South Korea. America says the system is aimed at North Korea but China says it will allow the US to spy on its territory. In recent days there have been multiple reports of apparent economic retaliation aimed at South Korea by Beijing. Mr Tillerson called these actions "unnecessary and troubling". "We also believe it is not the way for a regional power to help resolve what is a serious threat for everyone," he said. Mr Tillerson was blunt: the previous policy had ended. Despite that assertion, though, the difference between the Obama strategy and the Trump one is not obvious. Mr Obama had not ruled out military force and Mr Tillerson thinks sanctions might yet work. Both administrations ruled out negotiation - though Mr Tillerson said they would be "premature" at the moment, prompting the thought that there might come a time when they were the right thing to do. At the end of it, the situation remains the same: North Korea shows no hint of being willing to renounce nuclear weapons, whatever economic blows it receives and whatever China might think. Mr Tillerson heads for Beijing next, hoping China will help - but in the past Mr Trump has called China an "enemy".
North Korea – A new North Korean missile test appeared to have ended in failure, according to South Korean and US officials. The reported failed launch on the 22 Mar 17 came during large-scale annual military drills involving US and South Korean forces that the North has called a rehearsal for an invasion. Seoul's defence ministry said in a statement that Pyongyang fired one missile from an air base in the eastern port of Wonsan but the launch was believed to had failed. "We are in the process of analysing what type of missile it was," it added. The statement came after Japan's Kyodo news service, citing an unidentified government source, said the North might have launched several missiles and that they were a failure. A US military spokesman also said they had detected a failed North Korean missile launch attempt, with a missile exploding within seconds of its launch. "US Pacific Command detected what we assess was a failed North Korean missile launch attempt in the vicinity of Kalma," Commander Dave Benham, a spokesman for US Pacific Command, said in a statement, referring to an air field on North Korea's east coast. "A missile appears to have exploded within seconds of launch," Benham said, adding that work was being carried out on a more detailed assessment.
Pakistan/Pakistan Taliban – A bomb apparently targeting a mosque in Pakistan's north-western city of Parachinar killed at least 22 people on the 31 Mar 17 and wounded approximately 70 in an attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban. It is suspected to be a remote controlled device planted in a vehicle, Ikramullah Khan, a political agent for Kurram agency said adding that at least five wounded were in critical condition. Television footage from the scene showed damaged buildings in a busy marketplace, with crowds gathered around the site. Local officials said the blast took place near the entrance to a Shia mosque. The banned armed group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), often referred to as the Pakistani Taliban, said the blast was part of its operation Ghazi, named after their leader killed by Pakistani security forces in 2007. Sajid Hussain Turi, a member of parliament from Kurram, told local television channel Geo: "There have been threats for at least two months, but I am sad to say the administration and the [special forces] soldiers have just been bothering people here and yet this attack still happened. This is both a question mark [on the security arrangements] and to be marked with sadness." Parachinar is the capital of the Kurram tribal area in Pakistan's northwest, located about 275km west of the capital Islamabad. The district has seen several blasts targeting its sizeable Shia Muslim minority. In Jan 17 at least 25 people were killed and 87 wounded when a bomb went off in a busy vegetable market in Parachinar. In Feb 17 more than 70 people were killed and dozens wounded in an attack on a crowded Sufi shrine in southern Pakistan. The attacks have shattered hopes that Pakistan may have come through the armed group's violence that had scarred its recent history and increased pressure on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government to show it was improving security.
Russia/Syrian Kurds – Russia's military will train Kurdish forces in Syria, a spokesman said on the 20 Mar 17 in the first agreement of its kind with the militia that controls large parts of the country's north. The move by Russia, a long-time ally of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, is likely to anger Turkey, which considers the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) to be a "terrorist" group. "An agreement was signed between our units and Russian forces operating in Syria that will train us in modern military tactics," YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said. "This is the first agreement of its kind, although we have had previous cooperation (with the Russians) in Aleppo city," he said. Russian forces were already present at the training camp in the Afrin region, one of the three "autonomous" cantons that Kurdish authorities manage in northern Syria, Xelil said. The deal, which Xelil said was part "of the framework of the fight against terrorism," was signed on the 19 Mar 17 and came into force on the 20 Mar 17. The YPG makes up the bulk of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters that has seized swathes of territory from the Islamic State group in northern Syria. The SDF receives equipment, weapons and air support from the US-led coalition, and is backed by several hundred Western special operations forces in an advisory role. Russia, meanwhile, is a long-term backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but had recently worked closely with rebel supporter Turkey to try to end the six-year war in Syria.
Turkey/Europe – Turkish authorities have detained three people linked to 2016 deadly attack on a Berlin Christmas market, local media reported on the 20 Mar 17 saying the suspects were headed to Europe. Tunisian attacker Anis Amri hijacked a truck on the 19 Dec 16 killed its Polish driver and ploughed the vehicle through the market in a attack claimed by the Islamic State group that claimed 11 more lives. The assault left 56 others injured. Turkish media including the website of leading daily Milliyet said the three suspects, German citizens of Lebanese origin, were detained by anti-terror police at Istanbul's main Ataturk airport. The reports did not specify what their alleged links to the Berlin attack were, but cited intelligence that said the three wanted to go to an unidentified European country. Four days after the Dec 16 attack, Amri, 24, was shot dead by Italian police after he fled to Milan. One of those arrested at the airport had been waiting to go to Europe with the intention of launching a terror attack after he had entered Turkey illegally, the reports added. Separately, a German citizen of Jordanian origin allegedly linked to Amri and believed to be a IS member was caught in the Aegean city of Izmir on the 11 Mar 17 state-run Anadolu news agency reported. Turkey has been hit by multiple attacks blamed on IS in the last 18 months, including a gun attack on an Istanbul nightclub just 75 minutes into 2017 which left 39 dead. Many foreign extremist fighters in Syria made their journey to the war-torn country via Turkey prompting Western allies to chide Ankara for not doing enough to halt IS militants. But Turkey has stepped up its security on its 911-kilometre (560-mile) border with Syria and officials insist the country has done all it can in the fight against IS.
Turkey/Kurds – Turkey’s military forces on the 23 Mar 17 launched an offensive on the Kurdish district of Afrin in Syria’s northwestern Aleppo Governorate, killing and wounding dozens of civilians, eyewitnesses and officials told ARA News. The Turkish Army initiated the offensive by shelling the villages of Malla Khalil and Der Ballout in the Jinderis area of Afrin. Several houses were destroyed and dozens of civilians were killed or injured during the attack. Also on the 23 mar 17 Turkey’s military forces hit with heavy artillery the Kurdish villages of Ferferk and Qere Baba in the Rajou area in Afrin District. Furthermore, the villages of Anqala and Khalil in the Kurdish Shiya area were also exposed to artillery shelling by the Turkish troops. “The barbaric Turkish attacks on the Kurdish villages of Afrin caused dozens of casualties among civilians, many of them were women and children,” a local human rights activist told ARA News. “The death toll is in increase as many of the injured are in critical condition,” the source said. A member of the Afrin Rescue Team confirmed to ARA News that many victims remained stranded under the rubble. “The Erdogan-led thugs [Turkish forces] launched simultaneous attacks on all these villages in Afrin, with the ultimate goal of killing as many Kurds as possible. The world should witness this and take action to prevent more massacres by the Turkish dictator,” a Kurdish activist said. In the meantime, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) vowed to respond to the Turkish offensive. “We strongly condemn this massacre against the Kurdish people in Afrin, and we will respond by force,” the YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said in a statement on the 23 Mar 17.