- Sen. McCain: America ignores Pakistan at its peril
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is holding up a $300 million payment to Pakistan because it says the country isn't doing enough to stop the powerful Haqqani militant group. The U.S. pays Pakistan to fight militants on its own soil out of something called the Coalition Support Fund, but Reuters reports that Carter will halt the payments by refusing to certify that the country has sufficiently cracked down on the Haqqani group. Pakistan's intelligence service has deep ties to the Haqqani leadership and other Islamist militants, and some accuse the country of playing a double game of reaping U.S. military aid while covertly supporting terrorism.
The spiritual leader of Bahrain's Shi'ite Muslim majority went on trial on Wednesday on charges of collecting donations illegally and money laundering in a case that has increased tensions in the Western-allied Gulf Arab state. - Reuters
The Syrian government and its powerful Russian allies laid out a road map on Thursday for subduing the rebel-held districts of the city of Aleppo by opening corridors for civilians to flee and offering amnesty to insurgents who lay down their arms. – New York Times
After a breakdown of the recent cease-fire in Syria, Russian and Syrian air forces have resumed a bombing campaign that has extensively used cluster munitions, killing and maiming dozens of civilians, a leading human rights group said in a report released Thursday. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
FPI Senior Policy Analyst Tzvi Kahn writes: The Obama administration should abandon the agreement with the Kremlin and immediately implement Plan B, the only strategy that stands a meaningful chance of turning the tide of the war. If Washington accedes to Moscow’s demands, Russian aggression against the Syrian people will likely endure, further threatening hundreds of thousands of lives and ensuring the Assad regime’s ultimate victory. – Foreign Policy Initiative
Charles Lister writes: International military action against Jabhat al-Nusra does seem all but inevitable. At the same time, however, the consequences for doing so have become even more concerning. Ultimately, what remains of the mainstream opposition risks being dragged into an international escalation that appears fueled by a desire to combat al Qaeda with an insufficient appreciation for the complexity of Syria’s broader dynamics. – Foreign Policy
Katherine Zimmerman and Jennifer Cafarella write: Al Qaeda has set a trap for the U.S. in Syria. Basing policy on the formal affiliation of a group to al Qaeda creates a major national security risk as al Qaeda and other organizations play these rules against us. American policymakers should instead make decisions based on the threat Salafi-jihadi actors pose using an understanding of their inherent ideology and objectives. By those measures, the new group remains a core part of the global Salafi-jihadi movement of which al Qaeda is the leader. – AEI’s Critical Threats
[N]early eight months later, those three districts are firmly under the control of the Taliban — and, in fact, government forces were never able to clear them and install the new officials. It is the same story in much of the rest of Kunduz Province, where the Taliban control or have mined many roads and have enforced their ban on smoking and listening to music in several areas. – New York Times
Five U.S. Special Operations troops, fighting alongside their Afghan counterparts, were wounded recently while battling Islamic State militants in Afghanistan’s Nangahar province, the top U.S. general there said Thursday. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
Last week’s Islamic State bombing of a protest rally in Kabul that killed 80 people and injured over 200 more came amid a major assault by the Afghan army — and U.S. special operations forces — on the group’s stronghold in eastern Afghanistan. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
Due to sloppy management of an Afghan National Army vehicle-maintenance program, the cost to maintain vehicles has risen significantly and made it difficult for the ANA to carry out military operations, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko finds. – Defense News
Efforts to help Afghans internally displaced in their home country have been hindered by a lack of coordination among nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and resistance by some Afghan provincial governments, according to an inspector general's review. – The Hill
The Afghan government lost control or influence of nearly 5 percent of its territory between January and May, the U.S government's top watchdog on Afghanistan said in a report on Friday, an indication of the challenges its forces are facing. - Reuters
Afghanistan has been hollowed out as its citizens have fled poverty and war, many seeking work in Pakistan, Iran or Persian Gulf nations, or risking the perilous trail to Europe. But this specific emigration pattern — of thousands of young men flowing into neighboring Iran and then on to fight alongside the Syrian government and its allies — has provoked extraordinary anguish for families here and for Afghanistan’s government, particularly over the past year. – New York Times
The Islamic State group presence in Afghanistan is directly linked to the parent organization in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. Army general in charge of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan said on Wednesday. – Associated Press
Egypt is seeking a $12-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to stabilize its economy; IMF negotiators will arrive in Cairo this weekend to begin talks.
kurds, baghdad suicide bombing, french catholic priest assailant identified & Turkish heat on extradition
Two bombs struck a Kurdish security headquarters and a government building in Qamishli, Syria, this morning, killing at least 50 people. The Islamic State has claimed credit for the attack, which occurred when a truck bomb exploded on the western edge of the town, followed moments later by a second suicide bomber on a motorcycle.
Another suicide bombing occurred in Baghdad, killing three police officers and three civilians at a checkpoint in the predominantly Shia neighborhood of Shula. Though no group has claimed credit for the attack yet, it is believed to have been carried out by the Islamic State.
Turkey Increases Pressure for Gulen Extradition
The Turkish government issued another public call for the United States to immediately extradite Fethullah Gulen, the cleric the government accuses of masterminding the recent failed coup. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote in an editorial for Al-Jazeera that “Turkish people are appalled at the US’ insistence in harboring him” and that the extradition ruling “may shape the future relations” of the United States and Turkey. Nearly two-thirds of the country believes that Gulen orchestrated the coup, according to a new public opinion poll.
Assailant in France Church Attack Identified
One of the Islamic State-aligned terrorists who killed a priest in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, France, yesterday has been identified as Adel Kermiche, a 19-year-old French citizen whose parents are Algerian immigrants. He had been arrested twice while trying to reach Syria to join the Islamic State and was wearing an electronic monitoring tag while awaiting trial when he carried out the attack. Kermiche was shot and killed during the attack yesterday along with a second attacker who has not been identified.
Saudi Ambassador to the US Abdullah Al-Saud writes: The U.S.-Saudi relationship is one of the most important in the world. Together we fight terrorism, share intelligence, battle ISIS and work to bring stability to the Gulf region. In this period of historic change and a heightened threat of terrorism, we cannot afford mistrust. – Los Angeles Times
The Islamic State’s latest suicide attack in Baghdad, which killed nearly 330 people, foreshadows a long and bloody insurgency, according to American diplomats and commanders, as the group reverts to its guerrilla roots because its territory is shrinking in Iraq and Syria. – New York Times
The force of about 10,000 men is a small bright spot in an otherwise lackluster legacy of American efforts to rebuild Iraq’s military in the 13 years since the invasion. U.S. officials say it is their most reliable partner in fighting the Islamic State on the ground, while the Iraqi army struggles with corruption and mismanagement. – Washington Post
Islamic State is threatening more attacks against Afghanistan's Hazara minority after Saturday's suicide blasts in Kabul that killed 80 people, pledging to retaliate against support by some in the mainly Shi'ite group for the Assad regime in Syria. But assessing the threat from Daesh, as Islamic State is known in Afghanistan, is difficult. - Reuters
To secure the recently liberated city of Fallujah, Iraq’s army is resorting to an old tactic: It is building a trench as part of new measures to safeguard the area. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Middle East experts say that as the Islamic State is defeated in Iraq and Syria, the fight for a stable political future in the region is just beginning. – Washington Times
The attack on peaceful protesters in Kabul — who were mostly from the Hazara ethnic minority — stirred an international outcry, in part because it was the first time that the Islamic State’s leadership in Syria had claimed responsibility for such a deadly strike in Afghanistan. But some here voiced skepticism that the terrorist group, whose fighters in Afghanistan are concentrated in the east, was behind it. The detail hardly seemed to matter to others, who see the bombing as another in a long procession of attacks born of a chaotic and unending war. – New York Times
After two years of heavy casualties, the Afghan military is trying to retake the initiative in the war against militants with a new offensive against Islamic State group loyalists, an assault that will see American troops back on the battlefield working more closely with Afghan soldiers – Associated Press
Concerns have mounted over the political future of Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif after his planned return to Islamabad on Tuesday was cancelled on health grounds, following his open heart surgery in London. – Financial Times
A special court hearing treason charges against former Pakistani president and army chief Pervez Musharraf ordered the seizure of his assets on Tuesday after he failed to appear for a hearing in the capital Islamabad, media reported. - Reuters
Charles Lister writes: While it does remain feasible to defeat ISIS independently from attempts to solve Syria’s broader crisis, Jabhat al-Nusra’s fate is intrinsically linked to the conflict’s outcome and how it ends. External intervention against Al-Qaeda without concerted and guaranteed efforts to protect civilians and safeguard the mainstream opposition will undoubtedly fail. In fact, it will further embolden extremism and directly erode crucial levels of moderation within a still considerable portion of the opposition. – The Huffington Post
An Israeli intelligence source confirmed Monday that a new unit of Afghan snipers trained by Lebanese-based Hizbollah and financed by Iran is now operating beyond its northern border on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. – Defense News
A draft indictment found by Turkish authorities suggests that the plotters of the failed July 15 coup planned to try President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for “colluding with terrorists,” citing his government’s six-year effort to reconcile with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that broke down last year. A copy of the draft was obtained by BuzzFeed. At least one analyst told BuzzFeed that the indictment does not necessarily refute the government’s claim that the coup was a Gulenist conspiracy, noting that the Gulenist movement feels threatened by Kurds in Turkey’s southeast and has tried to push similar terrorism charges before.
Turkey's Deep State Unleashed
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a three-month state of emergency last night after a meeting with his security council that lasted five hours. The state of emergency will grant Erdogan wide-ranging executive powers in the wake of a failed coup attempt last Friday. "The aim of the declaration of the state of emergency is to be able to take fast and effective steps against this threat against democracy, the rule of law and rights and freedoms of our citizens," he said in a televised speech. Turkey will also suspend the European Convention on Human Rights for at least a month, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told NTV.
Approximately 50,000 public employees have been arrested or fired in purges that began over the weekend. The judiciary, which was among the first sectors to be affected by the government crackdown, has been so hard hit and the purges are moving with such speed that rights groups say laws and due process have been bypassed. “They are not applying any kind of law at this stage,” a Turkish law professor told the Washington Post. “The courts are only a formality at the moment.”
James Jeffrey writes: The longer term U.S challenge is a Turkey that, depending on where Erdogan wants to take it, could be politically less stable, economically weaker, less anchored to Western institutions, and less committed to democratic institutions and a common NATO strategy. A weak Turkey is as problematic as an unfriendly one. But only if Washington and Ankara win success together on common regional issues will the U.S. be positioned to advise Ankara on sensitive issues such as media freedom, a ceasefire with the PKK, and its questionable economic policies – The Cipher Brief
The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan withstood an attempted coup on Friday night. Erdogan, who was on the Turquoise Coast at the time, managed to escape a raid on the resort where he was staying and issue public statements despite the temporary takeover of Turkish media outlets by troops participating in the coup; he encouraged his supporters to take to the streets in protest. At least 290 people were killed in clashes between military forces that tried to take over the government and loyalists. Turkish authorities have rounded up more than 7,500 suspected participants in the coup so far, approximately half of whom are members of the military, including senior officers. Several more have been arrested in Greece as they tried to flee Turkey. Another 8,000 police officers have been suspended from work on suspicion of sympathizing with the coup. Supporters of Erdogan rallied in Istanbul on Sunday and chanted slogans advocating for the reauthorization of the death penalty, abolished in Turkey in 2004, for the coup’s supporters. “We cannot ignore this demand," Erdogan said of the calls for executions. "In democracies, whatever the people say has to happen." European officials said today that reinstating the death penalty would end consideration for Turkish accession to the European Union, and the EU commissioner in charge of Turkey’s accession bid noted that the speed with which the arrests were carried out suggests that the Turkish government already had a prepared list of dissidents. "I'm very concerned,” he said. “It is exactly what we feared."
Since Friday night, Erdogan has suggested that the attempted coup was a plot by members of the Gulenist Movement within the military. He called on the United States to extradite Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in the United States for the past 20 years but retains a large network of influence in Turkey. A one-time ally to Erdogan, the Gulenists have become rivals in recent years and in May the Turkish government declared them a terrorist organization. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that the United States will consider any formal request for extradition that Turkey submits, but that he has not seen any credible evidence to suggest Gulen’s knowledge of or participation in the coup. Gulen himself denied any role in Friday’s events.
Thousands of military officers, soldiers and other suspects linked to a failed coup in Turkey have been arrested, authorities said Sunday, amid signs that the campaign against the alleged plotters was turning into a crackdown on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s opponents. – Washington Post
Widespread arrests and dismissals of those allegedly linked to a failed coup plot in Turkey intensified on Monday as authorities sacked more than 8,000 police officers and officials and raised fears of an all-out purge — eliciting statements of caution from Western officials. – Washington Post
Secretary of State John F. Kerry cautioned Monday that Turkey’s membership in NATO could be jeopardized if abandons democratic principles and the rule of law in a post-coup crackdown. – Washington Post
Signs of testy relations between Turkey’s embattled government and the United States continued Sunday, as Secretary of State John Kerry denounced any suggestion of American involvement in Friday’s coup. – New York Times
The failed coup attempt in Turkey has fueled a sharp conflict with Washington over the fate of a Turkish cleric in the U.S., while posing a broader challenge to the West’s efforts to fight terror and promote liberal democracy. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish cleric whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has accused of inspiring the coup attempt against his government, gave a rare interview on Saturday at his compound here in which he denied involvement in the coup, but compared Mr. Erdogan’s administration to that of the Nazi SS. – New York Times
[T]he commandos who raided the resort where Mr. Erdogan had been staying missed their target. After a brief gunbattle with his presidential security force, the rebels were repelled. Before they ever arrived, Mr. Erdogan had slipped away. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Mr. Erdogan has built a track record of squeezing and periodically blocking foreign social media firms in what critics say is an effort to score political points and muzzle opposition. But his response to an attempted military coup on Friday shows how his playbook has changed: Instead of just censoring and mocking social media, Mr. Erdogan and his AKP party have become adept at using it, too. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
According to Mr. Akyurek, the coup failed in part because its leaders didn’t seize control over the nation’s communications lines—just as they failed to appreciate the deep ways Turkish society has changed since the days when the once-vaunted armed forces could control political developments without violence. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Though he once saw him as a potential role model for Muslim leaders, Obama now considers Erdogan a thuggish autocrat who threatens Turkey's democracy almost as much as the generals who tried to overthrow him. But Obama also understands that he's stuck with Erdogan, a NATO partner he must deal with on critical security issues like the Islamic State and Syria. - Politico
Within hours, the purges of the judiciary and military had begun. While it could take months to determine what this “cleansing” will mean for the future of Turkey, this much is certain: Ankara’s fraught relations with the West just got a lot more complicated. – Politico EU
The crackdown against those responsible for Turkey’s abortive coup moved into the heart of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s inner circle on Sunday night while sporadic fighting in two cities signalled that small pockets of mutineers were still resisting arrest. – Financial Times
Turkey's regional allies on Saturday condemned a deadly but foiled coup attempt by a faction of the army against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rule, while his opponents abroad kept silent. - AFP
Eli Lake reports: Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has accused a Muslim cleric in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains of plotting this weekend's military coup, and some Turkish officials accuse the U.S. of playing a role. – Bloomberg View
Editorial: U.S. policy toward Turkey should be to support the principle of democratic rule in a stable and cohesive state. The failure of the coup staved off one threat to Turkish stability. What remains to be seen is whether Mr. Erdogan’s revenge does even graver damage to Turkey’s hopes for decent self-government and further destabilizes the world’s most dangerous region. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Editorial: [T]he long-term U.S. interest is in a Turkey that preserves its democratic institutions and civil society. Washington must do its best to restrain any move by Mr. Erdogan to respond to the coup with another crackdown on the secular and liberal forces that came to democracy’s defense. – Washington Post
Amb. Robert Pearson writes: it would behoove the government to try to understand more clearly what actually might have set the stage for such sentiments and to reach out. For the first time in this long period of AKP rule, armed violence has entered the picture. If the government reaction leads to further repression of rights and freedoms, and the existing tensions remain unaddressed, then the door to more violence widens. That’s not what Turkey needs. - Politico
Soner Cagaptay writes: Erdogan brought Turkish democracy to the brink of disaster before the coup; the officers who launched the coup pushed Turkish democracy into the abyss. It will take leaders Turkey currently does not have to rescue it. – Washington Post
Cagaptay also writes: Turkey is at a pivotal point in its history following the failed coup attempt of July 15. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, having survived the coup plot, won fresh legitimacy and gained a new ally: religious fervor in the streets. Mr. Erdogan can use this impetus either to become an executive-style president, or he can encourage the forces of religion to take over the country, crowning himself as an Islamic leader. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Kori Schake writes: Absent intelligence clearly linking Gulen to the plotters, it would be a mistake for the Obama administration to hand him over. The United States did well to support an elected government during a coup; it will do likewise well to support the restraints of law against a government using the tools of the state to repress its people – National Review Online
Edward Luttwak writes: Opposition parties all very loyally opposed the coup, but they should not count on Erdogan’s gratitude. The drift to authoritarian rule is likely to continue, even accelerate: As in other Islamic countries, elections are well understood and greatly valued, but not democracy itself. – Foreign Policy
“Welcome to the Turkish Winter: The Great Purge Is Just Beginning” (Burak Kadercan, War on the Rocks)
“Put bluntly, we have just entered a new phase in the ever-dramatic and hardly predictable story of Turkish democracy, a chapter that could easily be called the ‘Turkish Winter.’ The coup attempt and Erdogan’s reactions to it will be the key drivers of this phase, but they are merely the symptoms of the real disease that troubles Turkey. The ever-struggling Turkish democracy is dying a slow and painful death, and no single political actor has the will, power, and the right set of incentives to prevent this decay. The road ahead is stark: either an absolute presidency that will not only further ossify but also institutionalize Erdogan’s one-man status, or civil strife that will either take the country down the road of Syria or lead to yet another coup attempt.”
U.S. and Afghan forces are accelerating plans to decapitate the Taliban insurgency, expanding a new offensive strategy that appears to be stumping the group’s efforts to make dramatic gains on the battlefield. – Washington Post
A Taliban commander responsible for the 2014 attack on a Pakistani school in which more than 130 children died has been killed in an airstrike in Afghanistan, United States and Pakistani officials said. – New York Times
Maj. Gen. Richard G. Kaiser on Thursday assumed command of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, which develops Afghan security forces. – Stars and Stipes
Afghanistan has no plans to revive a peace process aimed at bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table after a four-nation effort earlier this year produced no results, Afghan officials said Thursday. – Associated Press
The former head of Afghanistan's main intelligence agency released documents on Thursday which he said showed that Pakistani intelligence services helped leaders of the Taliban and the feared Haqqani network in 2014 and 2015. - Reuters
President Obama's decision to allow more aggressive U.S. military action in support of Afghan combat operations against the Taliban could have a game-changing effect on the long war, Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said Saturday. – Associated Press
After inflicting heavy losses on weakened Afghan security forces a year ago, the Taliban under new leadership have been surprisingly slow to ramp up attacks at the midpoint of the traditional fighting season, senior American military officers said Sunday. – Associated Press
Posters urging the Pakistani Army chief to take over the country in a military coup sprouted suddenly across Pakistan this week, with a photograph of Gen. Raheel Sharif, a burly man with a thick mustache, and an emphatic, pleading request: “For God’s sake, take over.” – New York Times
Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani social media sensation, was strangled by her brother in central Pakistan, police officials said Saturday, in what appears to have been a so-called honor killing. – New York Times
Police arrested the brother of slain Pakistani internet star Qandeel Baloch and said Sunday they plan to charge him with murder, in one of the most high-profile examples of so-called honor killings in the conservative country in recent years. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
As U.S. troops begin rebuilding a key Iraqi airfield outside of the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, U.S. military officials say the size of the American force in Iraq may continue to grow. – Military Times
Recent victories in Fallujah and Qayyarah show that the Iraqis are capable of defeating the Islamic State group but the country must consolidate control of armed groups and promote political reconciliation in order to achieve lasting peace and stability, a United Nations official said Friday. – Associated Press
A powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric said the additional 560 U.S. troops heading to Iraq to upgrade an air base recently retaken from the Islamic State group would be a “target” for his supporters. – Associated Press
FPI Fellow James Kirchick writes: Because to blame Bush and Blair for the mess in Iraq is to surrender to a fatalism in which Arabs are considered devoid of agency, inherently incapable of establishing any form of government other than hardened dictatorship. For the same patronizing reasons that they scoffed at the notion of Arab democracy in 2003, the war’s critics today absolve Iraqis of any responsibility for their self-inflicted fate. – National Review Online
“The Future of U.S.-Saudi Relations” (F. Gregory Gause, Foreign Affairs)
“The Obama administration’s top priority in the region is rolling back and ultimately destroying Salafi jihadist groups -- above all, ISIS and al Qaeda. These groups may not represent an existential threat to the United States, but they do pose an immediate danger to the country and its allies. The Obama administration’s other major goal is to limit Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, an objective that the recent international agreement has achieved. After the deal, Washington hoped to engage Tehran in regional diplomacy, particularly over Syria, and perhaps even to normalize relations. The administration has not yet realized those hopes, but Obama clearly wants to cooperate with Iran even as he seeks to limit its influence. Washington cares much less about other regional goals. Ever since the administration’s early efforts to jump-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process foundered, the U.S. government has moved the issue to the back burner. And in Syria, although the Obama administration has repeatedly said that President Bashar al-Assad must step down as part of a negotiated settlement to the civil war, it has done little to make that happen. The United States has provided scant support to the Syrian opposition, and ever since August 2013, when Obama backed down from the redline he had drawn over the use of chemical weapons, it has stopped threatening to attack Assad directly. ISIS, not the Assad regime, now finds itself in Washington’s cross hairs. Saudi Arabia’s priorities are almost exactly the opposite.”
Bill Gertz reports: The recent spate of suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia by the Islamic State terrorist group reveals that the al Qaeda offshoot is having difficulties operating inside the kingdom. – Washington Times’ Inside the Ring
U.S., Saudi, Syria Policy Developments
The United States and Russia agreed Friday to take steps that could reduce the violence in Syria, but Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said they will not outline what they are to prevent “spoilers” from disrupting the initiative. – Washington Post
Pro-government forces are tightening a new siege around the country’s largest city, Aleppo, amid intense bombing. Farther south, they are on the verge of overrunning the long-besieged Damascus suburb of Daraya, one of the first to rebel against the government of President Bashar al-Assad five years ago….Both supporters and opponents of Mr. Assad say he and his allies are seeking to press their military campaign as far as it can go before January, when a new American president might take a tougher line in Syria. – New York Times
“The Saudis can’t rein in Islamic State. They lost control of global Salafism long ago.” (F. Gregory Gause III, Los Angeles Times)
“Salafism morphed into a religious movement with a number of political manifestations, only one of which was the blend of social conservatism and political quietism represented by the official Saudi variant. This means that leaning on the Saudis to become ‘less Wahhabi’ is unlikely to have much effect on jihadist movements like Al Qaeda and Islamic State. They and their followers look to other sources of political and doctrinal inspiration, not the official Saudi clerics. The jihadist groups draw some of their adherents from Saudi Arabia, but the vast majority of Saudi Muslims, including the vast majority of Saudi Wahhabis, reject these groups. Saudi Wahhabism can be a path toward jihadism, but it is hardly the only one. Tunisia, probably the most secular state in the Arab world and the one relative success story of the Arab Spring, has sent more jihadists to Syria than has Saudi Arabia. The Europeans and Americans attracted by the propaganda of Islamic State did not grow up in the milieu of official Saudi Wahhabism. Global Salafism is now unmoored from its Saudi origins.”
“The Fantasy of Disengagement” (Thanassis Cambanis, Cairo Review of Global Affairs)
“It’s understandable that President Obama harbored a fantasy of washing his hands of the whole mess. The United States failed to achieve its goals in Iraq and Afghanistan despite killing many people and committing a great deal of resources. The results in Libya are more equivocal and America’s responsibility more broadly shared, but hardly make a case for successful U.S. intervention. But the alternative to reckless interventionism cannot realistically be disengagement. The region’s conflicts implicate the United States and plenty of other foreign powers, along with the whole ethnic, sectarian and ideological panoply of a region that, despite generations of ethnic cleansing, hosts a staggering amount of diversity. America bears heavy responsibility as Israel’s guarantor power, which inextricably ties Washington to Israel’s conflicts with Palestinians and other regional players. Far too late in the game, Obama has learned that saying that something doesn’t matter doesn’t necessarily make it so.”
Saudi Arabia was funding Muslim radicalism in mosques and charities at the time the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers were gathering in the United States and making contacts with Saudi nationals, according to a declassified intelligence document. – Washington Times
Is the Islamic State on the move, or in retreat? In some ways it’s both. The Washington Post’s Joby Warrick and Souad Mekhennet spoke to one Islamic State operative who admitted that while the group sees their “core structure in Iraq and Syria under attack,” they have “shifted some of our command, media and wealth structure to different countries.” That’s something that western intel analysts have been warning about for months, and a spate of attacks outside of the Middle East appears to bear this out. “We do have, every day, people reaching out and telling us they want to come to the caliphate,” said the operative, “but we tell them to stay in their countries and rather wait to do something there.”
The U.S. Strategy to Win, Defeat ISIS
Secretary of State John Kerry is in Moscow to deliver a bold new proposal to President Vladimir Putin that calls for the two countries to begin coordinating military activities in Syria, including sharing daily intelligence on Islamic State and Nusra Front targets.
The plan, which was leaked to the Washington Post, (document here) includes establishing a Joint Implementation Group near the Jordanian capital Amman, staffed by military and intelligence officials from both countries. They would share intel that identifies leadership targets, training camps, and supply lines for the Nusra Front, al Qaeda's Syrian franchise. Either Russian or American planes would then hit those targets. The coordination would come in exchange for Russian pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
The plan comes after months of harsh U.S. criticism of Russian actions in Syria, and claims that Russian planes are directly supporting the Assad regime by bombing a variety of anti-Assad rebel groups, including U.S.-backed fighters, as opposed to targeting ISIS. Just last month, Russian bombers dropped cluster munitions on U.S.-backed Syrian rebels at their camp in southern Syria. And Defense Secretary Ash Carter has said that Russian support for Assad is “leading to the prolongation of the civil war in Syria,” and "the Russians have been way off track since the very beginning...They have not done what they said they were going to do and they're not doing what is in their interest to do in terms of fighting ISIL."
At least 35 people were killed last night and another 60 others wounded when a series of three suicide bombers attacked the Mausoleum of Sayid Mohammed bin Ali al-Hadi, a Shia shrine near Balad, north of Baghdad. In a now-familiar pattern, an initial suicide bomber detonated his explosives amid people celebrating Eid al-Fitr, allowing other attackers to fire into the crowd before another detonated his own bomb. A third man wearing explosives was killed before he could detonate them. The area may have also been struck by mortar fire at the start of the attack, according to reports. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. Prominent Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has responded to the attack by deploying his militia around the shrine and also dispatching forces to guard the shrine of Imam Ali al-Hadi in Samarra, another sacred Shia site that was targeted by al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2006.
Facing mounting protests over the security situation in Baghdad, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi fired the security chief for the city, as well as other security and intelligence officials, according to a statement from his office. The Minister of the Interior offered his resignation on Tuesday, but Abadi has not accepted it. The death toll from the car bomb attack in Baghdad’s Karrada district on Sunday has now grown to 292 dead, with more than 200 others injured, Iraqi officials said yesterday; it is the single deadliest attack in Iraq since at least 2003.
Reports indicate attackers killed 35 and wounded 52 at a shrine north of Baghdad where worshippers were celebrating Eid al-Fitr. It comes after last Sunday’s morning attack in central Baghdad, where a minivan packed with explosives blew up and killed 281 people, according to the BBC. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack, the deadliest in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. So far, no one has claimed credit for Thursday’s assault.
John Bolton writes: Iraq today suffers not from the 2003 invasion, but from the 2011 withdrawal of all US combat forces. What strengthened Iran’s hand in Iraq was not the absence of Saddam, but the absence of coalition troops with a writ to crush efforts by the ayatollahs to support and arm Shi’ite militias. When US forces left, the last possibility of Iraq succeeding as a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional state left with them. Don’t blame Tony Blair and George W Bush for that failure. Blame their successors. - The Telegraph
Iraqi troops captured Qayara airbase on Saturday with air support from the U.S.-led coalition. The airbase is located 40 miles from Mosul and will be used as a staging ground for operations to retake the city. A team of U.S. advisors surveyed the facility on Sunday. Iraqi forces are now reinforcing the airbase’s defenses; the Islamic State still occupies the nearby town of Qayara and the military is concerned about an Islamic State counterattack.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter arrived in Iraq today for meetings with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and security officials. He said Qayara and another base retaken by Iraqi troops at Makhmour would serve as logistical hubs as Iraqi forces continue to press Islamic State forces from the south and Kurdish Peshmerga from the north.
The liberation of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, an Islamic State stronghold, is on schedule but still months away, said Defense Secretary Ash Carter after a meeting of defense ministers outside Washington Wednesday. – Washington Examiner
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Nathaniel Barr write: In essence, ISIL operates a professionalized external operations wing that is capable of directing and coordinating operations across the globe. Attacks that seem disparate or disconnected may actually be part of a broader campaign. Attackers who appear, at first glance, to have acted alone may be linked with a clandestine network. As we investigate the heinous assault in Nice, we should keep this in mind. – War on the Rocks
President Obama said Wednesday that he planned to leave 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan until the end of his term, further slowing the drawdown in a 14-year war that Mr. Obama pledged to end on his watch but now seems likely to grind on indefinitely. – New York Times
Young Afghans rebelling against the traditional daytime fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan have been turning to secretive cafes in the capital willing to risk serving lunch. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
[M]any in the Pentagon are concerned that the president’s new plan isn’t much of a strategy at all. It’s just a holding action, to hopefully keep a lid on Afghanistan until after the election. – The Daily Beast
Republicans welcomed President Obama's decision to shelve his plan to halve the 9,800-strong U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, but questioned why he is reducing the force by even 1,400. – The Hill
Members of Congress expressed concern Wednesday that U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan can only be maintained by deploying incomplete units -- a practice that is eroding readiness, according to an Army general. – Military.com
The Obama administration's Afghanistan troop limit is costing the Army an additional $100 million per year, according to a top U.S. Army general, because the services are hiring contractors so they can rely less on troops. – Washington Examiner
During the nearly 15 years since the United States went to war in Afghanistan, the number of American troops there spiraled to 100,000, then dropped slightly below 10,000. President Barack Obama had planned to drop the number to 5,500 by the end of this year. Now he has decided to leave about 8,400 through the end of his presidency. A timeline of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan – Associated Press
Interview: The Cipher Brief conducted an exclusive interview with former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, to discuss his thoughts on the President’s announcement – The Cipher Brief
Editorial: For now, Mr. Obama has done the minimum to ensure that 15 years of U.S. investment and sacrifices in Afghanistan, including 2,300 military deaths, do not end in catastrophe during his presidency. His successor would do well to learn both from this president’s mistakes — including his attempt to end the war on an arbitrary timetable — and from his political courage in correcting them. – Washington Post
Mario Loyola writes: Political reconciliation was always the ultimate goal of the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan — the only way to make durable the gains from our soldiers’ sacrifices. But whereas the military tends to see victory for the U.S. and its allies as the only path to a lasting political settlement, Obama seems to believe that winning wars and achieving political reconciliation are contradictory aims. – National Review Online
netanyahu & the generals: Israeli Civil-Military Relations, why isis still exists & David's sling, Historic mistakes arab's made w/ israel
“Netanyahu vs. the Generals” (Amir Tibon, Politico Magazine)
“By placing the hawkish Lieberman in the Defense Ministry, Netanyahu has seriously undercut the security establishment, the most important moderating force within Israel's power structure. Lieberman's predecessor, Lt. General (ret.) Moshe Ya'alon, was also affiliated with the right wing in Israel (he is still a registered member of the Likud party), but as a former general himself, he encouraged those serving under him to speak their minds freely and openly, even if their analysis contradicted that of the elected government. In the months leading to his removal from the Defense Ministry, Ya'alon gave backing to the IDF senior command on a number of occasions in which the generals clashed with other cabinet members from the right wing, mainly over the question of how much force Israel should use in retaliation to Palestinian terror attacks. Lieberman, who was still in opposition in parliament during that period, took the side of the most extremist ministers in the government, advocating policies that, if implemented, would highly increase the likelihood of war. Now the next U.S. administration will find itself facing a new balance of power in Israel, between the most right-wing government in decades and the traditionally more moderate security establishment -- one in which the extremists, at least for the moment, have triumphed.”
The United States and Israel conducted successful tests of David’s Sling and other area-defense weapons systems against a simulated rocket barrage last month, the Israeli Defense Ministry said this week.
July 13, 2016
Elliot Abrams: The Disappearance of the 2 State Solution
The three deadly attacks are already being viewed by intelligence and law enforcement officials as proof that the Islamic State, the only terrorist group to create a state with borders, is becoming a larger, more sophisticated version of its stateless chief rival, Al Qaeda, as it loses territory under traditional military attack in Iraq and Syria. – New York Times
[A] closer look at the attack the Islamic State has claimed in Bangladesh — and at the fact that it has not claimed bombings attributed to it in Turkey, including the airport attack this past week — suggests a group that is tailoring its approach for different regions and for different target audiences. – New York Times
July 11, 2016
Authorities are investigating a Mumbai-based televangelist whose radical sermons are believed to have influenced at least one of the men who killed hostages in a Bangladesh cafe earlier this month. – Los Angeles Times
Mr. Khan has been held largely incommunicado by law enforcement in Bangladesh’s capital city of Dhaka for the past week, suspected by the police of being involved in the attack in which gunmen carrying explosives stormed a Dhaka restaurant and the Islamic State took credit. Mr. Khan’s family and friends say it is a case of mistaken identity, but as the days have passed, they have grown increasingly desperate to make contact with him, fearing for his life in a country where brutal interrogation practices are commonplace. – New York Times
In the days after the devastating siege of a popular cafe in Dhaka that left 23 dead, including two police officers, Bangladesh has begun looking for its lost sons….Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, gave an emotional appeal Thursday for parents to inform the police about their missing boys. Investigators launched a nationwide effort to learn more about the missing and whether any had been recruited for militant groups. – Washington Post