The Soufan Group Morning Brief


FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 2016

An American man who allegedly fought alongside ISIS in Syria before being captured by Kurdish forces in March was indicted in federal court on Thursday on terrorism charges, including providing material support to ISIS. Mohamad Jamal Khweis, 26 and from Virginia, is the first ISIS-affiliated American to be captured, after he claimed he fled from the group and surrendered to Kurdish forces. Khweis’ lawyer, John Zwerling, said that it was “too early to say” how his client would plead in the case. New York Times, CNN, ABC, Washington Post

The Obama administration has given the U.S. military new authorities in the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, according to a U.S. official. The measures allow U.S. forces to accompany conventional Afghan troops on the battlefield, an action that was previously limited to support of Afghan special forces. The move could also allow greater use of U.S. air power, in particular close air support. Reuters, Washington Post

Torture: Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) signaled on Thursday that he wants to bring back the threat of torture in the fight against terrorism, citing similar practices supported by presidential candidate Donald Trump. Thornberry said that the next president should “quit saying what we’re not going to do” after being asked about waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques. He added that “we have gone overboard in ruling out all sorts of options which only simplify the enemy’s calculations.” Washington Post

Email privacy: Efforts to pass a bipartisan bill that would require law enforcement officials to obtain warrants before asking tech companies for users’ emails have stalled over an amendment that would expand the FBI’s surveillance powers. The amendment would allow the FBI to use ‘national security letters,’ which are administrative subpoenas that do not require probable cause, to access users’ online records. Wall Street Journal

UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Thursday that the next round of Syria peace talks will begin on August 1, as Russian and Syrian airstrikes continued to target rebel-held areas. The original timeline called for an agreement on a political transition in Syria by the beginning of August. New York Times

Libya: Libyan fighters loyal to the UN-backed unity government made progress toward the center of Sirte, ISIS’s main stronghold along the Libyan coast. The offensive against ISIS, which began three weeks ago, has moved more quickly and has been more successful than many expected. New York Times

Iraq: Two suicide attacks in and around Baghdad on Thursday killed at least 31 people and wounded dozens of others. One suicide bomber targeted a commercial area of a majority Shiite neighborhood in the capital, while the other crashed an explosive-filled car into an Iraqi Army checkpoint in the town of Taji, north of the city. AP

Indonesia: Indonesian police said Thursday that they arrested three men suspected of planning suicide attacks. The suspects reportedly have connections to an ISIS cell that claimed responsibility for the January terror attack in Jakarta that left eight people dead. Wall Street Journal

France: One of the main suspects in the Paris and Brussels terror attacks will be sent to France to face charges. Mohamed Abrini, a 31-year-old Belgian-Moroccan dual citizen, was captured on video surveillance walking alongside two suicide attackers at the Brussels airport shortly before they detonated their explosives. He was also identified as one of two suspects seen traveling to Paris two days before last November’s attacks that killed 130 people. Guardian
To keep the Islamic State and Russia out, we need to keep Britain in: “To say that Britain and the United States have a ‘special relationship’ is an understatement….Our partnership is critical to U.S. national security and to the global order in which the United States and Europe are preeminent,” write Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Lindsey Graham in the Washington Post. “It is in our mutual economic interest for Britain to continue to lead from within the E.U.”

Return to Fallujah: America can avoid repeating past mistakes. But will it?: As U.S. and Iraqi forces continue to press against ISIS in Fallujah, over 50,000 civilians remain trapped in the city. Protecting them is not only a moral imperative, but critical to long-term U.S. strategic objectives,” writes Chris Rogers in the Guardian. “Failing to do so would be a rebuke to the hard-learned lessons of U.S. generals in Afghanistan.”

Is the West about to repeat its mistakes in Libya?: “On June 7, Britain circulated a draft resolution at the United Nations to authorize European naval forces to intercept ships suspected of smuggling arms to the Islamic State in Libya,” writes Mustafa Fetouri on Al-Monitor. “This appears to be counter to what was agreed to in a May 16 Vienna meeting in which major powers promised to help Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) arm itself to confront IS. However, the latest draft resolution aims to tighten the noose around IS while calling for the easing of the arms embargo against the GNA.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Tel Aviv Under Fire

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