Today's Headlines and Commentary

Staley Smith, Quinta Jurecic
Friday, July 24, 2015, 4:22 PM

The New York Times reports that al Qaeda operative Abu Khalil al-Sudani was killed in an American airstrike in Afghanistan on July 11. He was a senior member of the group’s decision-making council, and a close as

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The New York Times reports that al Qaeda operative Abu Khalil al-Sudani was killed in an American airstrike in Afghanistan on July 11. He was a senior member of the group’s decision-making council, and a close associate of Ayman al-Zawahri, the Qaeda leader. Al-Sudani had been directly involved in plots against the United States as well as against American, Afghan and Pakistani forces. U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who arrived in Erbil, Iraq earlier today for talks with Kurdish leaders, said “the strike showed that U.S. forces continued to fight al Qaeda even as the U.S. counterterrorism focus shifts to Islamic State.” Although the United States has halted operations against the Taliban, it has a maintains “a modest counterterrorism presence that is focused on al-Qaeda, which is believed to maintain a presence along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.”

After a year of hesitation, Turkey has joined the fight against the Islamic State, Foreign Policy announces. As the group continues to gain ground, there are growing concerns in Ankara about the threat of ISIS up against its borders. Tukey announced yesterday that it will allow U.S. forces to utilize “the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey to launch strikes against the Islamic State, a change that will open the door to an expansion of the U.S.-led air war in Syria and Iraq.” According to the Foreign Policy piece, the deal comes with news of more conflict: In the first case of direct combat, “Turkish troops clashed with Islamic State fighters near the Syrian border in Kilis province," and Turkish soldier was killed by ISIS militants firing from the Syrian side. Turkey’s willingness to let the United States use its air base signals a major shift in policy on the part of the previously reluctant U.S. ally. In the past, Turkey’s Incirlik Air Force Base has “hosted American forces under the umbrella of the NATO alliance, but it remains subject to Turkish sovereignty.”

Turkish F-16s attacked the Islamic State in Syria for the first time earlier today, Reuters reveals. The strikes hit three targets in areas south of the border province of Kilis, suggesting a launch from Incirlik. The air base, which is about 250 miles from the Syrian city of Raqqa, puts U.S. aircraft much closer to the fight. The Economist suggests that American support for the Kurds was a significant contributing factor in Ankara’s decision to join the fight.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made an unannounced visit to Kurdistan today following his trip to Baghdad yesterday. He hailed the Kurdish Peshmerga forces as a model for the kind of force needed to defeat the Islamic State by saying: "We are trying to build up a force throughout the territory of Iraq, and then some day ... in Syria," Carter told coalition troops in Erbil. Here (in) Kurdistan ... the Peshmerga is the model of what we’re trying to achieve."

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center shows that about 6 in 10 Americans approve of the U.S. military campaign against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria. However, just 30% believe the U.S. military campaign against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria is going well. Support has increased since last October for the use of U.S. ground forces, with 44% in favor of sending troops.

The AFP tells us that coalition-trained Iraqi troops have joined battle against the Islamic State for the first time. The Pentagon announced that “as many as 3,000” Iraqi soldiers are taking part in the fight to recapture Ramadi. The United States currently has 3,500 troops in Iraq who are advising and training local forces. Chief among the strategically important ISIS strongholds in the Anbar province is the capital of Ramadi. The Journal has provided a helpful video explanation of how city first fell into ISIS' hands.

In a cover story for Politico, James Kitfield calls Tennessee the "capital of American jihad." The recent shooting at the Chattanooga military recruiting centers is not the first of its kind; Kitfield describes the chilling and perhaps instructive parallels between the life stories of alleged shooter Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez and another Tennessean, Baptist-turned-jihadist Carlos Bledsoe. The latter pleaded guilty to committing a 2009 shooting at a Marine Corps recruiting post in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Meanwhile, Simon Cotte of the Atlantic considers what Westerners migrating to ISIS have in common with Westerners who sympathized with communism.

President Obama says that gun safety laws are the biggest unfinished business of his presidency. In an interview with the BBC he expressed regret for being unable to make progress on the issue: “The issue of guns, that is an area where if you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I’ve been most frustrated and most stymied it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense, gun-safety laws.”

A new Canadian anti-terrorism bill is coming under fire for being “excessive and lacking in sufficient oversight mechanisms.” The Guardian reports that the UN Human Rights Committee has called on Canada “to ensure that Bill C-51, which became law last month, does not have a negative impact on fundamental human rights.” The new legislation comes amid “two fatal attacks on military personnel in Canada linked to terrorism, including the deadly shooting of Corporal Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa in October by gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.”

The U.S. alliance with the Kurds may not be all good news, however: according to Foreign Policy, humanitarian workers in the Kurdistan region are becoming increasingly concerned over what appears to be a pattern of Kurds refusing to allow Sunni Arabs to return to their homes after recapturing ISIS-held territory. Peshmerga fighters may be pushing out Arabs in order to establish borders for a prospective Kurdish state.

The Wall Street Journal writes that, perhaps unsurprisingly, Syrian President Bashar al Assad retained control of chemical weapons despite ostensible compliance with the international effort to purge the regime’s arsenal. Since Syria’s chemical weapons were reported destroyed last year, reports have continued to surface of attacks with weapons such as chlorine-filled bombs. The Journal’s report examines how the Assad regime was able to hide its weapons from international inspection.

Hearings began on the nuclear deal with Iran yesterday with testimony by Secretary of State John Kerry, among others, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Defense One reports on the hearing, particularly Secretary Kerry’s comments that the alternative to a deal would be a war with Iran. Meanwhile, the Hill notes President Obama’s apparent confidence that the deal will make it through Congress, and also points to a White House statement on agreements between Iran and the IAEA over acknowledgement of past Iranian nuclear activity.

Reuters brings us news that the tides may have turned in the conflict in Yemen, with pro-government forces seizing the momentum that had previously belonged to the Houthi movement. Representatives of the Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh met yesterday with diplomats from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates, though it is unclear what significance the meetings will have. Saleh has backed Houthi forces in the past, while the Emirates maintain strong ties to the Saudi Arabia---two opposing sides in the ongoing conflict.

In its efforts to increase security measures in the wake of last month’s shooting at a beach resort, the Tunisian government has included mosques in its crackdown on extremism. The Times writes that Tunisian authorities have closed mosques and barred radical imams from holding positions---a move that some worry may represent a return to the authoritarian ways of Tunisia’s pre-Arab Spring government. Al Jazeera also reports that many Tunisians are struggling to cope amidst national chaos, in the wake of a revolution that hasn’t fulfilled its initial promise.

Politico examines the political situation in Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al Sisi. Despite the apparent strength of President Sisi’s government, a wave of disappearances and arrests has hit opposition groups---and suggested growing panic, in Egypt’s corridors of power, about the regime's stability.

The United Nations called for an immediate ceasefire in Libya yesterday as violence escalated in the south of the country. U.N. peacekeepers have sought to control the chaos that has roiled Libya since the death of Muammar Gaddafi four years ago, but have had little success.

In Thailand, 72 people have been indicted for human trafficking, including a senior army advisor and numerous other military and police officials. The investigation began after the discovery of over 30 bodies of migrants were discovered along the Thai-Malaysian border, the Bangkok Post tells us.

Foreign Policy examines a new Ukrainian law requiring the renaming of towns and landmarks that commemorate the Soviet era---including 115 towns named “October” or “Red October” in memory of the Bolshevik Revolution---in a story that mirrors the Atlantic’s description of efforts in Ukraine’s separatist east to emphasize the region’s Russian heritage. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports on the Chechens fighting in the conflict in Ukraine---for both Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Wired continues its reporting on the recent hack of Hacking Team, an Italian-based firm that has become notorious for selling zero-day exploits and surveillance software. The documents leaked in the data breach include correspondence that shows how Hacking Team acquired its zero-days, in what Wired describes as “one of the first extensive public case studies of the zero-day market.” The takeaway: while there’s a bustling market for the sale of zero days, Hacking Team had difficulty finding sellers who would sell the information to non-government buyers.

The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris brings us the news that economic espionage is more of a threat than ever, with cases investigated by the FBI going up by over 50% last year. FBI officials openly blamed China for the spying, in a sharp contrast with the government’s unwillingness to pin responsibility on Chinese hackers for the OPM data breach.

Glenn Gerstell, an Obama fundraiser and Washington attorney, has been appointed as the new general counsel for the National Security Agency. Shane also writes that “while he is well known in Washington legal circles, he’s a relative outsider among national security lawyers and experts who have recently composed the recruiting pool for the top legal position at the nation’s largest intelligence agency.” He notes that the general counsel at the NSA has been entrusted to speak publicly about (and defend) the agency’s practices in the wake of the Edward Snowden ordeal.

The Department of Defense has released its report on its accidental shipment of live anthrax to numerous labs around the country and the world, blaming the incident on a “systemic… lack of specific standards” in preparing anthrax spores for shipment. According to the Guardian, undersecretary of defense Frank Kendall stated at a press conference that the DOD “can’t absolutely guarantee” that the department will be able to track down all the anthrax that was shipped.

Parting Shot: If you’re looking for an interactive graphic that can helpfully explain the massive increase in Chinese foreign investment around the world over the last decade, the New York Times has got you covered.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Aaron Zelin posted the Jihadology Podcast, wrapping up his conversation with Don Rassler on ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

For Throwback Thursday, Quinta considered the Lieber Code’s influence on the new DOD Law of War Manual---not to mention Ben’s striking resemblance to Francis Lieber.

Ben linked to video of events at the ongoing Aspen Security Forum that include FBI Director James Comey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Look out for this week's Lawfare Podcast for more.

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.

Staley Smith previously was a National Security Intern at the Brookings Institution. She spent the past year studying in Jordan and Israel and will graduate from Johns Hopkins University in 2016 with a major in political science.
Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.

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