The Soufan Group Morning Brief



Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) is placing on hold the nomination of Jennifer O’Connor as the next General Counsel for the Defense Department until she receives a “transparency report” from the Pentagon about the remaining detainees at Guantanamo Bay. In a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Ayotte called for the report to provide more information about detainees when they are transferred from Guantanamo and resettled in foreign countries. On Tuesday, Ayotte introduced a bill that would prohibit the closure of Guantanamo, prevent it from being relocated to the U.S. homeland, and halt the transfer of detainees to other countries until 2017. DefenseNews, The Hill

Before meetings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Obama said that he is looking for new ways to scale up military action against ISIS. According to officials, one proposal would involve sending additional U.S. Special Operations forces into Syria. The Obama administration currently has authorized up to 50 special operators to train moderate rebel forces in Syria. In a statement, President Obama said that “we can no longer tolerate the kinds of positioning that is enabled by [ISIS] having headquarters in Raqqa and Mosul.” CNN

Gitmo: Senegal has reassured the public that the two Libyan Guantanamo detainees recently transferred to the country pose no threat and are “simply men who we must help because they are African sons who have been tested for years.” Senegal agreed to accept the two former inmates for humanitarian reasons, according to Minister of Justice Sidiki Kaba. He added that “the importance is to ensure that Guantanamo can be closed. There have been serious human rights violations in this prison.” Associated Press

Terror suspect: The State Department designated Salah Abdeslam, the sole surviving suspect arrested in connection with last November’s Paris attacks, as a “global terrorist” on Tuesday. The designation prevents Americans from doing business with Abdeslam and freezes any of his assets under U.S. jurisdiction. Washington Post, Voice of America

FBI: The FBI has declined to announce any details about the information it has found on the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. Speaking at a conference with the International Association of Privacy Professionals, FBI General Counsel James Baker said that the FBI is still analyzing data on the iPhone and will wait until the investigation is complete until releasing details about what was uncovered. New York Times, Wall Street Journal

Washington Post: WhatsApp, the messaging service, announces full encryption on all platforms

In a bid to consolidate his new authority, Taliban supreme leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour has appointed both the brother and the son of former leader Mullah Muhammad Omar to senior leadership posts. The two influential Taliban members had previously been skeptical of Mansour during a leadership struggle last summer. New York Times, Associated Press

ISIS: In a new propaganda video, ISIS has listed London, Berlin, and Rome as potential next targets for terrorist attacks in Europe. In the video, an English-speaking militant warns “if it was Paris yesterday, today Brussels, Allah knows where it will be tomorrow. Maybe it will be in London, in Berlin, or in Rome.” Newsweek, The Independent

Syria: Al Qaeda’s North African branch has confirmed the death of Nusra Front spokesman Abu Firas al-Suri in Syria. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said in an online statement that a U.S. airstrike had killed al-Suri, a prominent leader of the Al Qaeda-linked militant group, in northwest Syria. Reuters

Reuters: Rebels shoot down second Syrian jet in a month

Azerbaijan: Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a ceasefire after four days of fighting along the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave just inside Azerbaijan’s borders. Azerbaijan had earlier claimed that 16 of its soldiers had died in clashes with Armenian forces. New York Times, BBC News

Washington Post: Israeli-made kamikaze drone spotted in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

North Korea: On Tuesday, South Korean officials warned that North Korea has the ability to mount a nuclear warhead on a medium-range missile. According to a new government assessment, South Korea believes that North Korea has “accomplished miniaturization of a nuclear warhead” that could be mounted on a missile with a range of up to 1,250 miles. New York Times, Reuters

Bin Laden: In the final years of his life, Osama bin Laden made substantial investments in gold, according to a 2010 letter seized by U.S. Navy SEALs in the Abbottabad operation. The letter is part of recently declassified intelligence documents that shed light on how Al Qaeda manages its finances. New York Times 
Everyone says the Libya intervention was a failure. They’re wrong: “Most criticisms of the intervention, even with the benefit of hindsight, fall short,” writes Shadi Hamid on Vox. “It is certainly true that the intervention didn’t produce something resembling a stable democracy. This, however, was never the goal. The goal was to protect civilians and prevent a massacre.”

Writing a Blank Check on War for the President: “On parchment at least, the division of labor appears straightforward. The president’s designation as commander-in-chief of the armed forces in no way implies a blanket authorization to employ those forces however he sees fit or anything faintly like it,” writes Andrew Bacevich on TomDispatch. “Quite the contrary: legitimizing presidential command requires explicit congressional sanction. Actual practice has evolved into something altogether different.”

The United States must not aid and abet Iranian money laundering: “Iran has yet to see the economic growth it wants from President Obama’s nuclear deal, and it’s demanding additional concessions — above and beyond the agreement — in return for nothing,” writes Representative Ed Royce (R-Calif.) in The Washington Post. “Allowing a belligerent Iran access to the U.S. dollar poses real dangers to our country and economy.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Assad’s Fight for Leverage in Syria

The Center on National Security at Fordham Law will host a full-day conference “Hindsight: Reflections on 15 years of The War On Terror” on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. To RSVP, click here.

Fordham Law School will host the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals for an Outreach Argument and Q&A: “United States v. Staff Sergeant Charles D. Buford Jr.” on Friday, April 15, 2016. To RSVP, click here.

Call for Papers: Revisiting the Role of International Law in National Security. For more information, click here.

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