The Soufan Group Morning Brief


FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2016

A new CNN/ORC Poll conducted after the Orlando nightclub massacre found that 71% of Americans believe that more acts of terrorism in the United States are somewhat or very likely in the next several weeks. This is the highest level of concern about a potential attack recorded since 2003. The poll also found that nearly three quarters of Americans view “lone wolf” attacks by individuals claiming inspiration from terrorist organizations as a bigger threat than attacks planned by terrorist groups. CNN

The Obama administration is “not ruling out the possibility” of sending additional U.S. troops to Iraq to help train, advise, and assist Iraqi forces as they prepare for a large-scale military operation to retake the city of Mosul from ISIS, a senior U.S. official told CNN. There have reportedly been several meetings to determine if hundreds of more American troops are needed to support Iraqi forces in the upcoming Mosul campaign. Iraqi forces are currently fighting north toward Mosul, attempting to recapture surrounding villages and towns in order to isolate the city before a direct assault. CNN

Gitmo: The Periodic Review Board convened on Thursday to consider the case of Ghassan Abdallah Ghazi al-Sharbi, a 41-year-old Saudi Arabian national who has been held at Guantanamo since June 2002. Al-Sharbi is accused of receiving training on how to build remote controlled IEDs and of attending meetings with Al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan. He was captured in March 2002 alongside fellow Guantanamo inmate Abu Zubaydah. Human Rights First

The Hill: Republicans blast latest Gitmo transfer

Orlando shooting: Contrary to earlier reports, FBI investigators say they have found no evidence that Orlando shooter Omar Mateen had gay lovers or communicated on gay dating apps, according to the LA Times. However, investigators are still trying to piece together reported from several Pulse nightclub regulars who claimed to have seen Mateen at the club months prior to the attacks. LA Times

Benghazi trial: A federal judge set the trial date for Ahmed Abu Khattala, who is accused of leading the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. D.C. District Judge Christopher R. “Casey” Cooper announced that the trial would begin in September 2017. Washington Post

U.S. warplanes have carried out airstrikes against Taliban targets in recent days under new authorities for operations in Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the expanded authority last week at a NATO meeting in Brussels, which allows U.S. commanders to support Afghan offensives with combat advisers, airstrikes, and surveillance aircraft, and authorizes American pilots to fly alongside the Afghan air force. USA TODAY

Iraq: Upcoming military offensives against ISIS in Iraq, including a planned assault on the city of Mosul, could displace 2.3 million people, according to UN estimates. More than 3.4 million Iraqis have already been displaced by the conflict. Over the past month, 85,000 people have fled Fallujah as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces carried out operations to retake the city from ISIS. Reuters

CNN: ISIS remains a formidable enemy despite setbacks

Syria: The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces moved into the outskirts of the ISIS-held town of Manbij in northern Syria on Thursday. The Arab and Kurdish forces reportedly advanced slowly into the center of the Manbij, which lies along the only ISIS supply line between the Turkish border and the group’s capital, Raqqa. AP

United Kingdom: British citizens voted to leave the European Union on Thursday in a UK-wide referendum. In a 52 to 48 percent vote, the United Kingdom will be the first country to leave the 28-member European Union. In response to the vote, the British pound fell to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar since 1985. David Cameron announced that he will step down as Prime Minister by October. BBC, New York Times

Germany: A masked gunman stormed a cinema and held several dozen people hostage in Viernheim near Frankfurt on Thursday before being shot and killed by German police. Authorities have yet to establish a motive for the attack. No one else was injured in the attack, according to a police spokesperson. Reuters
Get ready for another Iraq War: “Sometimes it’s impossible to tell whether it’s 2007 or 2016. The battle plans I hear from our commanders in Iraq today are the same ones I heard at the beginning of the surge, down to the same cities and tribal alliances,” writes Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) in the Washington Post. “Carl von Clausewitz taught us nearly 200 years ago that ‘War is a mere continuation of politics by other means.’ We have to have a political endgame, or the sacrifices our troops continue to make will be in vain.”

A Broken Promise in Afghanistan: “Since the American-led invasion in 2001, our service members and diplomats have relied on thousands of Afghans, particularly as interpreters. The State Department’s Special Immigrant Visa program allows these Afghans to seek refuge in the United States. These visas are reserved for men and women who undergo rigorous screening and can demonstrate at least two years of faithful and valuable service to the United States,” writes Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in The New York Times. “Yet while nearly 10,000 Afghans are still trying to obtain special visas, Congress is on course to abruptly end the program…Abandoning these Afghans would not just be a stain on our national honor, but also would carry profound strategic costs.”

Exporting Jihad: Bosnia and Kosovo: The “legacies of the Communist era and the wars of the 1990s – presence of foreign fighters, economic and physical destruction, a lack of funding to rebuild, and the near eradication of moderate Islamic institutions – paved the way for Islamic extremist groups to establish a foothold in both countries,” writes Kaitlin Lavinder on the Cipher Brief. “As Bosnia and Kosovo attempt to work through a bloody recent history, the introduction of extremist Islam (especially Saudi-backed), institutional weakness, and economic distress, ISIS and other militant groups have established recruiting efforts within both countries.”

Spycast: Combating Extremism: An Interview with Dr. Tara Maller

Out Now: Karen Greenberg's newest book, Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State, is the definitive account of how America's War on Terror sparked a decade-long assault on the rule of law, weakening our courts and our Constitution in the name of national security.

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Terror Theater

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