Today's Headlines and Commentary

Sebastian Brady
Friday, February 13, 2015, 2:23 PM
ISIS militants have seized Al-Baghdadi, a town in western Iraq, and have begun advancing toward nearby Ayn Al-Assad Air Base, which houses U.S. military personnel, CNN reports.

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ISIS militants have seized Al-Baghdadi, a town in western Iraq, and have begun advancing toward nearby Ayn Al-Assad Air Base, which houses U.S. military personnel, CNN reports. Already, eight suicide bombers suspected to be from ISIS were able to make it onto the base, though they were shot by Iraqi security forces almost immediately upon reaching the sprawling facility, according to CBS. Despite this success, the group continues to be hit by U.S.-led airstrikes. On Thursday, airstrikes killed at least 20 ISIS fighters in northeastern Syria, Reuters notes. And in Iraq, the Wall Street Journal reveals, Shiite militias are preventing the group from pressing further south toward Baghdad. However, these militias have been using brutal tactics in Sunni areas to halt ISIS’s advance, raising concerns over renewed sectarian violence, which is what led many Sunnis to support ISIS to begin with. Similarly, in Syria opposition to ISIS appears increasingly likely to include the Assad regime, whose brutal tactics helped trigger the civil war that enabled the rise of ISIS. The U.N. envoy for Syria said earlier today that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must be part of any solution to the violence in Syria, Reuters reports. The envoy maintained, however, that this does not mean that President Assad must be part of the overall solution to the Syrian conflict. Attacks against ISIS are no longer limited to the battlefield, the Hill notes. The hacker group Anonymous has begun attacking ISIS’s sophisticated social media platform, through which it recruits the thousands of foreign fighters that fill its ranks. As turmoil in Yemen continues, Reuters reports that al Qaeda-affiliated militants have claimed a large army base in the south of the country. The successful attack was carried out by the al Qaeda-linked group Ansar al-Sharia. Just hours earlier, the U.N. Special Envoy to Yemen warned that Yemen was on the brink of falling into civil war. As the U.S. military draws down its mission in Afghanistan, the Taliban is becoming both more complex and more deadly. The Washington Post describes how the Taliban has evolved into a collection of factions with often conflicting ideologies. This evolution comes at a time when violence in the country is rising and U.S. military forces are dwindling. However, the New York Times reveals, the U.S. military’s campaign is evolving as well. Using intelligence captured in a raid last October, military forces have been carrying out an increasing number of nighttime raids on suspected militants from both al Qaeda and the Taliban. In Pakistan, citizens already suffering from shortages of fuel and electricity may soon also face a water crisis. The Times reports that in several years, due to both climate change and government mismanagement of water resources, the entire country may become water-starved. The country is already struggling with water shortages in some regions, which many groups, especially Islamic militants, blame on India. The Times explains that the ceasefire agreed to in the Ukrainian crisis is especially fragile because, among other things, it leaves the key issue of control of the Ukrainian border with Russia unresolved. The Wall Street Journal adds that in the lead-up to the ceasefire’s Sunday start date, fighting intensified as both sides tried to expand their territory. Reuters notes that eight Ukrainian military personnel were killed in fighting after the deal was announced, and 34 more were wounded. European Union leaders meeting in Brussels yesterday to discuss anti-terror measures said they want to institute stricter border controls to disrupt the travel of terrorists, the BBC notes. Within 26 member-states of the EU, citizens can currently cross borders freely without passports; proposed restrictions would tighten checks on individuals entering that passport-free zone. A bomb was detonated in a crowded market in northeastern Nigeria yesterday, the Associated Press reports. Officials suspect Boko Haram, which is based in the region. The group has recently begun broadening its range of attacks to include neighboring countries involved in a multilateral effort to defeat it, and yesterday attacked Chad for the first time, according to the AP. Chad is now the third country outside of Nigeria that Boko Haram has attacked. The Senate confirmed Ashton Carter as Secretary of Defense by a vote of 93-5 yesterday. Despite the appearance of rare near-unanimity in the Senate, the Times explains that several of those voting for confirmation, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ), made it clear that the vote was not a vote of confidence in the Obama administration’s foreign policy. The Senate Armed Services Committee passed a bill yesterday limiting the transfer of Guantanamo detainees, the Hill reports. The bill, which passed by a 14-12 margin in the committee, would block the transfer of high- and medium-risk detainees while also restricting the countries to which detainees could be transferred. The White House has already threatened to veto the bill, the AP notes, As debate over closing the facility continues in Congress, members of the House will travel to Guantanamo this month to inspect the facility, the Hill reveals. The White House is holding a cybersecurity summit at Stanford University today, the Hill reports. While the CEOs of Google, Facebook, and Yahoo all declined to attend, the event will be attended by members of the tech community that the President is hoping to convince to share more information on cyber threats. During the summit, President Barack Obama will sign an executive order setting up the cyber threat information centers that would facilitate such sharing. The Wall Street Journal notes that the U.S. military has created a sophisticated search engine that helps law enforcement track criminal networks. The search engine can search not only text, but also GPS coordinates attached to images, and information depicted in the images themselves.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Jack provided his take on the administration’s new AUMF. Ben responded to some of Jack’s points, and Jack followed with some more thoughts on the draft. Yishai Schwartz recapped Wednesday’s court proceedings in the 9/11 military commission case. Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.

Sebastian Brady was a National Security Intern at the Brookings Institution. He graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a major in political science and a minor in philosophy. He previously edited Prospect Journal of International Affairs.

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