Since 2014, ISW has been tracking Jabhat al- Nusra, the official al- Qaeda affiliate in Syria. ISW believes that Jabhat al- Nusra poses one of the most significant long-term threats of any Salafi- jihadi group.

President Obama announced on July 6 that the U.S. will maintain 8,400 troops in Afghanistan through the end of January 2017 instead of the planned drawdown to 5,500.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on July 14 to discuss a proposal for bilateral military cooperation in the Syrian Civil War.

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi accepted the resignation of seven ministers on July 19 and July 20, suggesting that PM Abadi will seek to restart the Cabinet reshuffle process.

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Popular Mobilization completed the operation to recapture Fallujah on June 26 and the ISF launched an operation to retake Shirqat and Qayyarah on June 18, seizing Qayyarah airfield on July 9.

Latest from ISW

Syria Situation Report: July 22 - 29, 2016

Pro-regime forces completed the encirclement of Aleppo City on July 28, isolating the main stronghold of mainstream opposition groups in Northern Syria. Meanwhile, Jabhat al-Nusra head Abu Muhammad al-Jolani issued a video statement announcing the formation of a new group called ‘Jabhat Fatah a-Sham’ with “no affiliation to any external entity” in a symbolic break with Al-Qaeda. The rebranding represents a calculated move to facilitate the unification of armed opposition groups in a “grand merger” that continues to pursue the long-term strategic vision of Al-Qaeda to establish an Islamic Emirate in Syria.

Russian Airstrikes in Syria: June 29 - July 27, 2016

Russia enabled pro-regime forces to complete the physical encirclement of Aleppo City on July 28, isolating the primary nexus of the non-jihadist opposition in Northern Syria. These gains threaten the long-term survival of mainstream opposition groups that could serve as potential partners against ISIS and Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.

Avoiding al Qaeda's Syria Trap: Jabhat al Nusra's Rebranding

The leader of al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al Nusra, announced the end of his group's operations and the creation of a new entity named Jabhat Fatah al Sham today. He claims that this new organization has "no affiliation to any external entity." The maneuver removes a key obstacle Jabhat al Nusra faced in Syria, namely the al Qaeda brand name, but it does not denote a change in the group's Salafi-jihadi ideology. Rather, the break will facilitate the unification of armed Syrian opposition groups around a core that still pursues al Qaeda's long-term objective of establishing an Islamic emirate in Syria.

ISW Resources on Jabhat Al- Nusra: Al-Qaeda's Syrian Affiliate

Since 2014, ISW has been tracking Jabhat al- Nusra, the official al- Qaeda affiliate in Syria. ISW believes that Jabhat al- Nusra poses one of the most significant long-term threats of any Salafi- jihadi group. ISW recognizes ISIS and al Qaeda are Salafi- jihadi military organizations with distinct sources of strength and maintains that U.S. strategy must operate against both ISIS and Jabhat al- Nusra simultaneously. Focusing on an "ISIS first" strategy will result in Nusra continuing to grow stronger.

Ukraine Warning Update: Possible Clashes Could Trigger Snap Elections

President Putin and pro-Russia actors within Ukraine aim to trigger snap parliamentary elections to bring pro-Russian and populist parties to power and start rebuilding the client regime. ISW assesses that Russia intends to provoke clashes during a large march of Orthodox Christians to Kyiv on July 27 to cause a crisis, to try to set conditions for snap elections. Russia’s military action against Ukraine failed to reverse the political defeat dealt to Russia when the Euromaidan movement came into power in 2014. President Putin seeks to find lower profile methods of regaining control of Ukraine, including exploiting lack of political unity and decreasing public support for the current Ukrainian governing coalition. Bringing Ukraine back to Russia’s orbit is a major strategic objective for President Putin in his efforts to reassert Russia’s power globally.