ISW Daily Update: March 17, 2016

 These are the major events from March 17, 2017 in the theaters and from the trans-national groups that ISW monitors: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, and ISIS.

SYRIA: Salafi Jihadi groups in Syria are using the U.S. air campaign against al Qaeda in Syria to advance anti-Western sentiment within opposition-held Syria. U.S. airstrikes targeted senior al Qaeda members in the town of Jinnah in western Aleppo Province. Local activists and prominent Salafi Jihadi groups later accused the U.S. of striking a local mosque and killing at least 46 civilians. The U.S. denied the strike targeted the mosque and stated the U.S. does not "currently assess... any civilian casualties." 
IRAQ: Senior Shi’a political leaders are welcoming an increase in Sunni Arab regional diplomatic activity in Iraq. PM Haidar al-Abadi and National Alliance leader Ammar al-Hakim discussed the “restoration of Iraq’s Arab role" in a meeting on 16 MAR. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, and the Arab League engaged in an increased number of meetings and telephone conversations with senior Iraqi government officials, including Abadi and Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari over the past month. Sunni Arab states seek to gain influence in Iraq and limit growing Iranian influence over the Iraqi state and will increase diplomatic outreach as Iraqi national elections approach in April 2018.
AFG: Haqqani Network and Taliban militants are attempting to expand territorial control in Khost Province to prepare for the spring fighting season. Haqqani Network and Taliban militants conducted a complex, coordinated attack against an Afghan National Army (ANA) base in Sabari District, Khost Province. Separately, ISIS Wilayat Khorasan militants demonstrated social control in Sayad District, Sar-e Pul Province by shooting and beheading Shi'a civilians. 
EGY: Saudi-Egyptian relations continue to improve. Egyptian officials stated Cairo and Riyadh have reached a preliminary agreement to hold a high-level meeting, likely between Egyptian and Saudi foreign ministers in Cairo or Amman. Egyptian officials also stated that another meeting between President Sisi and Saudi King Salman or his representative to the Arab League summit is being arranged. Saudi Arabia agreed to resume shipments of oil supplies to Egypt on 15 MAR.
RUS/UKR: Kremlin officials indicated that Russia does not intend to annex the Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics despite calls for such action from separatist officials. A Russian official announced that Russia would only consider reversing its official recognition of government documentation from the illegal separatist republics after “Kyiv’s full implementation of the Minsk agreements.”  This announcement indicates that Russia’s long-term strategy is to force Ukraine to reintegrate the separatist regions on the Kremlin's terms rather than annexing them. 
ISIS: An ISIS militant conducted a SVEST attack targeting a Bangladeshi Special Forces camp IVO Dhaka, Bangladesh. ISIS has been operational in Bangladesh since 2015, but ISIS had not attacked in Bangladesh since 24 AUG 2016. This most recent attack occurred three days after ISIS published a video featuring a Bengali suicide bomber encouraging militants in Bangladesh to carry out attacks.  It also comes less than two weeks after ISIS’s first attack in India. ISIS networks in India and in Bangladesh are linked. The close succession of the attacks indicates the connectedness and responsiveness of ISIS’s network in the region.