Afghanistan – Taliban forces have captured the district of Sangin in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, Reuters reports. Taliban fighters seized the police headquarters and local military base after government troops conducted a “tactical retreat.” While government forces follow the retreat with airstrikes, to destroy any military equipment left behind, Taliban fighters were still able to capture large quantities of weapons and equipment abandoned by retreating government forces.
Last month, General John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in the country, stated that Afghanistan was effectively in a stalemate and that thousands of troops would be required to boost the NATO-led mission. NATO forces currently operate in a training and advisory capacity, and it appears they continue to have their work cut out for them.
The Afghan government now controls less than 60 percent of the country with the remainder either heavily contested or under Taliban control.
North Korea – The most recent in a series of North Korean missiles tests has failed, Reuters reports. The missile exploded within seconds of launch and, despite its failure, shows a disturbingly sharp increase in missile testing on the part of North Korea. The most recent provocations by North Korea have prompted the deployment of THAAD missile defense systems to South Korea and the threat of tougher sanctions by the United States.
North Korea, however, is unimpressed by the U.S. and others’ threats. A North Korean diplomat dismissed the idea of more sanctions and stated that North Korea would seek an “acceleration” of their nuclear program and work to achieve “pre-emptive first strike capability.” North Korea has long been believed to be working on the development of nuclear-tipped ICBMs, which would be capable of reaching the United States, although most experts believe the rogue nation is several years from developing that capability.
Ukraine – An exiled Russian lawmaker was shot and killed outside a hotel in central Kiev on Thursday, according to Reuters. Denis Voronenkov, who was wanted by Russia in connection with an alleged $5 million property fraud, fled to Ukraine last year. He was a key witness in the treason case against Ukraine’s former pro-Russia leader Viktor Yanukovich.
Yanukovich was ousted during the 2013-2014 Maidan street protests. Ukraine’s current president, Petro Poroshenko, said, “Voronenkov was one of the main witnesses of Russian aggression against Ukraine and, in particular, the role of Yanukovich regarding the deployment of Russian troops to Ukraine.”
President Poroshenko has blamed Russia for the killing and accused them of “state terrorism .” Russia has denied any involvement in Voronenkov’s death and called such allegations “absurd.”