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inFOCUS Quarterly

Summer 2015

inFocus Examines Asia

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Afghan Officials Confirm Taliban Leader's Death

Afghan officials confirmed on Wednesday that Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar died in 2013. The revelation of Omar's death was announced amid ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan's government, and rumors of an internal power struggle among the terrorists organization's hierarchy.

An undated image released by the FBI of Mullah Omar. (Photo: ABC News)

An unnamed representative from Afghanistan's intelligence agency said that Omar died in a Karachi, Pakistan hospital in 2013 from an unnamed disease. The official explained that Omar frequently changed locations because of American drone strikes, but eventually settled in Rawalpindi, where Pakistan's military is headquartered. Oftentimes, according to the Afghan government, Pakistan's military and intelligence communities will control the movement and financing of Taliban members allowing them to keep tabs and influence the organization. The last known audio release from Omar came in 2005, but he is credited for releasing numerous written statements since then. Such statements,however, do not provide "proof of life."

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By Adam Goldstein  |  July 30, 2015 at 4:38 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Turkey Changes Stance on Combating IS

Following an Islamic State-linked suicide bombing on July 20th in Urfa, a southern province bordering Syria, Turkey initiated air-strikes on militant positions in Iraq and Syria. Turkey had previously chosen not to act against the Islamic State because IS was fighting Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Turkey's longtime enemies.

Turkey's bombing campaign began on July 24th when jets struck three Islamic State positions near the Syrian border, in what senior government officials described as a preemptive attack. Tanks and artillery from Turkey's Fifth Armored Brigade positioned within Turkey's Kilis province also shelled Islamic State militants across the border, killing at least one. Islamic State gunmen attacked a southeastern military outpost, killing one person and wounding five.

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By Adam Goldstein  |  July 28, 2015 at 3:27 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

White House Pushes for Guantanamo Bay Closure

The White House announced this week that it is finalizing a new plan to close the U.S. military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. While President Obama tried to close the prison in 2009, previous attempts to transfer all prisoners out of Camp Delta have failed amid bipartisan opposition in Congress.

After a series of domestic and international successes, the Obama administration hopes to continue its momentum, emphasizing the budgetary and national security benefits of closing the prison. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated, "There has got to be a better way for us to spend taxpayer dollars than to spend more than $100 million a year operating a prison that only has, I think now, 116 inmates." He also argued that Camp Delta serves as a "silver platter" for recruiting terrorists. However, officials did not give any previews of the new proposal or announce when it would be released.

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By Michael Johnson  |  July 23, 2015 at 5:04 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Leader of Khorasan Group Killed in U.S. Airstrike

A U.S. airstrike killed a seasoned member of al-Qaeda, Muhsin al-Fadhli, 31, as he traveled by car in the northwest Syrian town of Sarmada on July 8th, according to recently released information from officials in Washington. Al-Fadhli was leader of Khorasan, a terrorist group focused on launching attacks on the U.S and Europe.

Pentagon spokesperson, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis made the announcement Tuesday morning saying that Al-Fadhli's "death will degrade and disrupt ongoing external operation of al-Qaeda against the United States and our allies and partners."

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By Andy Hazelnis  |  July 22, 2015 at 4:01 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Turkish Government Names Suicide Bomber

Turkish authorities released the identity of a suicide bomber on Wednesday who killed 32 youth activists and injured more than 100 people in the town of Suruc earlier this week. Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz, a Turk with links to Islamic State militants, targeted students and members of the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations demonstrating in the town bordering Syria.

Activists with the leftist group had gathered at a local cultural center on Monday afternoon to show support for civilians impacted by the Syrian civil war. They planned on entering Syria to give toys to Syrian children and help rebuild the town of Kobane, just a few miles away.

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By Andy Hazelnis  |  July 21, 2015 at 3:58 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Indian Drone Supposedly Downed in Pakistan

Pakistani officials claimed Wednesday that they shot down an Indian "spy drone" in the Pakistani-controlled area of the contested Kashmir region. The incident comes days after a meeting between between the prime ministers of Pakistan and India on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference. Talks focused on shared regional interest, such as fighting terrorism.

According to the Pakistani Army, the drone entered the Pakistani-controlled area of Kashmir;  the Indian Army denied the incident, stating, "Some reports of a drone crash in PoK [Pakistan-occupied Kashmir] are being referred to. No drone or UAV crash of the Indian Army has taken place." India's envoy to Pakistan was called to Islamabad in order to formally accuse India of ceasefire and airspace violations. Pakistan claims that on the same day as the alleged drone incident, unprovoked shelling from India killed four and injured five civilians. Indian border guards counter that Pakistani artillery hit Pargwal killing one and injuring three.

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By Adam Goldstein  |  July 16, 2015 at 4:53 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Iraq's PMUs Launch New Offensive in Anbar

At dawn on Monday morning Iraqi forces launched an assault to retake Anbar Province from the Islamic State. The move comes amid Kurdish advances earlier this month in predominantly Sunni areas near Raqqa in Northern Syria.

A roughly 10,000 person strong coalition composed of fighters from volunteer Shiite militias, such as Hashd al-Shaabi, Iraqi military units, and Sunni tribesmen opposed to the Islamic State, began an effort to re-capture the hotly contested city of Fallujah. Leaders of the Shiite militias, often called Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), hope that recapturing Fallujah will help them retake the rest of Iraq's largest province.

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By Adam Goldstein  |  July 15, 2015 at 4:24 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

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