ISW Daily Update March 06, 2017

 These are the major events from March 04-06, 2017 in the theaters and from the trans-national groups that ISW monitors: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, and ISIS.

SYRIA: The U.S. Department of Defense recommended increased military support for the primarily Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against ISIS in Raqqa in a policy review submitted to the White House on February 28. If enacted, the plan will spark heavy backlash from Turkey, which considers the SDF an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkey’s potential responses include military operations against the SDF in Northern Syria or denying coalition access to Incirlik Airbase.

IRAQ:  The escalating brinksmanship of the PKK, KDP, and PUK threatens to undermine the authority of the Iraqi government in northern Iraq. Kurdish President Masoud Barzani affirmed the authority of Kurdish Peshmerga in Sinjar, where KDP and PKK proxy forces recently clashed. The PUK and KDP also escalated their competition over ultimate control of Kirkuk’s oil resources. Intra-Kurdish conflict in Iraq will have ramifications for regional power dynamics, as Turkey and the U.S. are aligned with the KDP while Iran continues to support the PUK.

AFG: The Afghan government seeks to increase security and political ties between Afghanistan and India to counter Pakistan. Afghan National Security Advisor Mohammad Atmar will conduct bilateral meetings with his Indian counterpart during the ongoing Asian Security Conference in New Delhi. Additionally, ISIS militants are increasing their operational tempo in Jowzjan Province. ISW previously highlighted ISIS's attempts to establish social control in northeastern Afghanistan in 2017.

RUS/UKR: Coal mines operating in Donetsk and Luhansk will begin exporting coal to Russia and illegally occupied Crimea. Russia intervened to avert economic crisis in the separatist republics despite the rising cost of maintaining the insurgency. Russian-backed separatists are less financially dependent upon Ukraine as a result.

EGY: Russia aims to offer Egypt sufficient economic incentive that it may compete with U.S. influence over the country’s policy towards Syria and the larger Middle East. Chairwoman of the Russian Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to discuss the resumption of flights to Egypt and economic cooperation generally. Russia and Egypt are also finalizing seventeen bilateral agreements.

ISIS: ISIS-linked militants worldwide may be travelling to Southeast Asia to join ISIS. Malaysia arrested seven individuals in an ISIS-linked VBIED plot, including four Yemeni citizens. Separately, British courts convicted a British citizen for attempting to join ISIS-affiliate Abu-Sayyaf in the Philippines. The movement of African and European citizens to Southeast Asia, rather than Iraq or Syria, indicates the group intends to transfer capabilities and operational momentum to the region.