National Security Brief: April 16, 2012

– Fighting ended around dawn today with dozens dead after the Taliban launched a spring offensive on Sunday, mounting attacks across Afghanistan and in the capital.

– A captured insurgent and Afghan officials reported that the Haqqani network, a group of fighters with ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, were behind an 18-hour assault on diplomatic and government targets in Kabul and three other cities which took the lives of four civilians and 11 members of Afghanistan’s security forces.

– A team of six U.N. military observers arrived in Syria on Monday to monitor compliance with the four-day-old U.N. and Arab League brokered ceasefire but the military’s shelling of Homs yesterday and today brought new uncertainties about the state of the shaky truce.

– The Pentagon reports that sexual assaults in the military rose slightly last year from 3,192 in 2011 to 3,230 — the Pentagon predicts that 86 percent of assaults go unreported — leading Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to promise new steps to combat assaults and hold perpetrators responsible.

– After talks between the P5 + 1 and Iran ended with the nuclear crisis on the table and a new round scheduled for May, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu complained that Iran had been given a “freebie.” In Colombia yesterday, President Obama responded that the U.S. hadn’t “given away anything” to Iran in negotiations.

– Bahraini authorities arrested American employees of New York-based group Human Rights Watch during a sweep to disburse protests on Sunday. Authorities broke up the opposition demonstration with tear gas, noise grenades and pepper spray, which one of the rights workers described as a “nightly occurrence.”

– The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, and its neighbor to the north, Sudan, built up military forces along a disputed oil-rich border region, the latest sign that increased fighting, including aerial bombings, shows little sign of abating.

– Following an unsuccessful missile test last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his first public address on Sunday, telling crowds that he would follow his father and grandfather’s legacy and prioritize the country’s military strength.