The Soufan Group Morning Brief


On Monday, Pentagon officials announced that the United States conducted airstrikes on an al-Shabab training camp in central Somalia, killing over 150 suspected fighters last Saturday. According to Pentagon officials, the airstrikes were carried out by drones and other aircraft and targeted what was believed to be a graduation ceremony for the fighters-in-training. The Pentagon added that intelligence reports suggested that al-Shabab was preparing for an imminent large-scale attack against American and African Union troops in the region. The United States currently contributes approximately 50 advisers and trainers to AMISOM, the AU Mission in Somalia, which has been the target of recent al-Shabab attacks. New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Guardian

New York Times: Shabab Claim Responsibility for Blast at Somali Airport
Associated Press: Somali Intelligence Cooperated With US for Al-Shabab Hit
The Obama administration announced on Monday that it will release the casualty totals of those killed in overseas U.S. drone strikes. The planned assessment, which will reportedly be released to the public in the coming weeks, will include numbers of combatant and noncombatant casualties from U.S. counterrorism strikes outside of war zones since 2009. Countries that are considered “areas of active hostilities” such as Iraq and Syria, will be excluded from the assessment’s totals. Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Hill

Gitmo: The number of former Guantanamo Bay detainees who are suspected of reengaging with militant groups doubled from six to 12 individuals in the last six months through January, according to a report released on Monday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. However, the biannual report also indicated that less than five percent of all released Guantanamo detainees have rejoined militants. Only seven out of 144 prisoners who have been released since President Obama took office in January 2009 have reengaged in fighting. Reuters, Vice News

Miami Herald: Guantánamo’s 68-year-old captive gets parole board hearing

Apple vs. FBI: On Monday, the Justice Department argued against last week’s ruling by a New York federal judge in favor of Apple. In a separate case from the one involving an iPhone used by a San Bernardino shooter, Magistrate Judge James Orenstein refused to order the company to unlock a drug dealer’s iPhone. In a court filing, federal prosecutors argued that “this case in no way upends the balance between privacy and security,” and “sets forth an unprecedented limitation on federal courts’ authority.” New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Hill

Meanwhile, CIA Director John Brennan appeared to support the FBI in its ongoing attempt to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone. Speaking at a State Department-sponsored event, Brennan brought up the 9/11 attacks in his support of the FBI saying “we never want to see this homeland devastated again. If the bureau has the opportunity to gain some there not some obligation on the part of the product developer to ensure that the government can fulfill its responsibilities?” The Hill

ABC News: Apple's Software Chief Says FBI Wants to 'Turn Back the Clock' on Security
Washington Post: The roots of Tim Cook’s activism lie in rural Alabama

At least 54 people were killed during clashes between militants and Tunisian forces in the town of Ben Gardane near the Libyan border on Monday. In the early morning, Dozens of militants attacked Tunisian army and police posts in the town. After several hours of fighting, Tunisian authorities drove out the remaining militants and secured the area. Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi blamed ISIS for the attack, although the extremist group had not claimed responsibility. New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters

New York Times: Pentagon Plan to Fight ISIS in Libya Includes Barrage of Airstrikes

Pakistan: A suicide bomber killed 16 people, including two police officers, in a court compound north of Peshawar on Monday. The militant group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, an offshoot of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, took responsibility for the attack. It was the first terrorist response in retaliation to the execution of Mumtaz Qadri last week. Qadri, a former policeman, was convicted of killing the governor of Punjab province in 2011 for opposing blasphemy laws. New York Times, BBC News

Syria: Leaders of the Syrian opposition remained undecided on Monday over whether to attend UN-sponsored peace talks later this week. Members of the opposition leadership group, the High Negotiations Committee, said there remain “lots of difficulties on the humanitarian assistance front” and that “the level of violence has been reduced, but it hasn’t stopped.” Wall Street Journal

United Kingdom: The United Kingdom is facing the threat of “enormous and spectacular attacks” by ISIS according to the head of British counterterrorism efforts. Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said on Monday that terrorists seek to attack “Western lifestyle” targets and that “in recent months we’ve seen a broadening” of targets beyond police and military personnel. The Telegraph, Guardian

Turkey: EU and Turkish leaders agreed on the outlines of a new plan to decrease the flow of refugees into Europe. The EU reportedly has agreed to expedite Turkey’s EU membership application and ease visa requirements for Turkish citizens traveling to Europe for Turkey accepting certain refugees that do not qualify for asylum in Europe. However, Turkey has reportedly demanded billions of euros of additional financial support by the EU before any agreement will be finalized. The sides plan to meet again on March 18. New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal

Israel: The Obama administration is making plans to renew stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations before the end of the President’s second term, according to senior U.S. officials. The administration is reportedly considering support for a possible UN Security Council resolution to call for both sides of the conflict to compromise on key issues. Officials added that President Obama had extended an invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet later this month, but Netanyahu declined the offer. Wall Street Journal

Washington Post: An Israeli leader wants to put Jerusalem’s Arabs on the other side of new walls
Foreign Policy: White House Says Netanyahu Rejected Offer To Meet With Obama
Why Strategic Planning Matters to National Security: “Government effectiveness in addressing emerging challenges requires that strategic planning occur in a variety of forms and on a range of timelines. When a deadly virus, cyber attack, terrorist threat, or large number of refugees suddenly moves across borders, the understandable tendency in government is for day-to-day crisis decision-making to crowd out strategic planning,” writes Jordan Tama on Lawfare. “But our leaders would be able to make better decisions in such crises if their decision-making was informed by rigorous planning that evaluated the pros and cons of different policy options.”

What the 2016 Presidential Candidates Get Wrong About the Future of War: “ ‘The President shall be Commander in Chief…’ This clause that leads Article Two, Section II of the U.S. Constitution is without a doubt the most important of the executive powers granted to the president by the Founding Fathers,” writes Peter Singer in Defense One. “But as today’s crop of presidential candidates seek that job, do they really understand the issues that await them tomorrow when it comes to the future of war?”

Treating The Islamic State As A State: “If we recognize these state-like attributes, even those we normally attribute to a failing state, our methods for dealing with it change from those we would use to fight a non-state actor to those we would use to fight an inter-state war,” writes Mike Pietrucha on War on the Rocks. “In the context of this conflict, this would lead to significant changes in the application of U.S. airpower.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Islamic State’s Tunisia Strategy

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