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A Belgian special forces soldier in Tal Afar. Balint Szlanko / AP

The Iraqi government announced the liberation of Tal Afar Thursday in what Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq is calling a "swift and decisive victory." Tal Afar is a city to the west of Mosul — Iraq's second-largest city which was liberated last month after a prolonged battle. The Tal Afar offensive began August 20.

Why it matters: Tal Afar produced some of ISIS's most senior commanders, per Reuters, and British army Maj. Gen. Rupert Jones told reporters last week that liberating Tal Afar would essentially put an end to ISIS in northern Iraq.

Other progress
  • Hezbollah has declared "mission accomplished" in Lebanon, after becoming the first battlefield enemy along with the Lebanese army to strike a peace deal with ISIS.
  • Syrian Democratic Forces have reclaimed about 60% of Raqqa, the "capital" of ISIS, per the Pentagon.
  • About 90% of Iraqi territory once held by ISIS has been reclaimed, per U.S. Central Command.

Go deeper

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.

Bush labels Clyburn the “savior” for Democrats

House Majority Whip James Clyburn takes a selfie Wednesday with former President George W. Bush. Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

Former President George W. Bush credited Rep. James Clyburn with being the "savior" of the Democratic Party, telling the South Carolinian at Wednesday's inauguration his endorsement allowed Joe Biden to win the party's presidential nomination.

Why it matters: The nation's last two-term Republican president also said Clyburn's nod allowed for the transfer of power, because he felt only Biden had the ability to unseat President Trump.

GOP research firm aims to hobble Biden nominees

Alejandro Mayorkas. Photo: Joshua Roberts/AFP via Getty Images

The Republican-aligned opposition research group America Rising is doing all it can to prevent President Biden from seating his top Cabinet picks.

Why it matters: After former President Trump inhibited the transition, Biden is hoping the Republican minority in Congress will cooperate with getting his team in place. Biden hadn't even been sworn in when America Rising began blasting opposition research to reporters targeting Janet Yellen and Alejandro Mayorkas.