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Arrow Eye on Extremism February 21, 2019

Eye on Extremism
By: Counter Extremism Project - February 21, 2019

Eye on Extremism Report:

The New York Times: White House Says 200 Troops Will Stay In Syria, Retreating From A Full Withdrawal

“The White House said on Thursday that it plans to leave about 200 American troops in Syria, signaling a partial retreat from President Trump’s announcement in December that he would withdraw all 2,000 forces after what he described as a victory over the Islamic State. The move was a concession to allies and Pentagon officials who have argued that a complete American withdrawal risks returning key areas in Syria to the Islamic State. It came Thursday after a phone call between Mr. Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, during which the two leaders agreed to continue working together to try to create a “safe zone,” the White House said. It was the second time in two months that a major military decision about Syria followed a phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan. As with Mr. Trump’s abrupt announcement in December, a terse statement on Thursday from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, took Pentagon officials by surprise. Ms. Sanders said that “a small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time.” She did not elaborate, and it was not clear if the American forces would be under the authority of the United Nations, which generally oversees declared peacekeeping missions in combat zones.”

The Washington Post: From Syria, IS Slips Into Iraq To Fight Another Day

“Islamic State fighters facing defeat in Syria are slipping across the border into Iraq, where they are destabilizing the country’s fragile security, U.S. and Iraqi officials say. Hundreds — likely more than 1,000 — IS fighters have crossed the open, desert border in the past six months, defying a massive operation by U.S., Kurdish, and allied forces to stamp out the remnants of the jihadi group in eastern Syria, according to three Iraqi intelligence officials and a U.S. military official. Hans-Jakob Schindler, a former adviser to the U.N. Security Council on IS and other extremist groups, said the same grievances that gave rise to IS in 2013 remain today, including a large Sunni minority that feels politically and economically marginalized by the Shiite-led central government. “I’m very worried that we are just repeating history,” said Schindler, who is now at the Counter Extremism Project. He said he has seen IS “revert to the old type” of “classical terror attacks” and kidnapping for ransom, tactics that were once widely employed by al-Qaida in Iraq.”

CNN: US Official Says French ISIS Operative Likely Killed In Syrian Airstrike

“A French ISIS operative linked to the deadly 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris was likely killed in a strike in Syria in recent days, a US defense official tells CNN. The 2015 attacks killed 130 people and wounded 494. The attackers, armed with assault rifles and explosives, targeted six locations across the city. Fabien Clain, a veteran French ISIS operative, claimed responsibility for the attacks in an ISIS audiotape released the day after the attacks. Clain, who officials believe worked to recruit operatives for a string of attacks in France, has been long sought by the French and US governments. French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly tweeted Thursday that it was “possible” Clain was killed during coalition operations against ISIS' last remaining territory in Syria. “The French citizens who remember his rallying calls for murder and his role in the pseudo-Islamic state, will surely be relieved,” she wrote while adding “We remain vigilant, this information is not confirmed.” Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting ISIS, told CNN earlier Thursday that the coalition “cannot confirm at this time” whether Clain had been killed.”

NPR: Advocates Ask FTC 'To Hold Facebook Accountable' For In-Game Purchases By Kids

“In 2011, Glynnis Bohannon gave her 12-year-old son permission to charge $20 on her credit card to play a game on Facebook called Ninja Saga. Neither of them saw any signs that the credit card information had been stored and was racking up charges as her son played and made additional in-game purchases. Bohannon says her son didn't realize it would end up costing nearly $1,000. Bohannon was the main plaintiff in a 2012 class-action lawsuit that Facebook settled in 2016. The suit was brought on behalf of parents whose minor children unknowingly made purchases on their parents' credit cards. On Thursday, more than a dozen groups that advocate for children's rights and privacy rights said they're asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Facebook has engaged in illegal, unfair or deceptive practices by enticing children to spend money on in-game purchases without their parents' consent. "Facebook's scamming of children is not only unethical and reprehensible — it's likely a violation of consumer protection laws," said Josh Golin, executive director of Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood. "Time and time again, we see that Facebook plays by its own rules regardless of the cost to children, families and society. We urge the FTC to hold Facebook accountable.”

The Sun: Web Terror: Bomb-Making Vid Which Inspired Manchester Arena Terrorist Is Back Online As Attempts To Scrub It From The Web Fail

“A BOMB-MAKING video used by the Manchester Arena terrorist is again being shared online, The Sun can reveal. Since the Manchester bombing in May 2017, researchers from the Counter Extremism Project have found the video circulating online 24 separate times. The most recent was last Thursday - the same day ISIS teen Shamima Begum broke her cover for the first time. The tutorial was uploaded to Anonfile, a file-sharing website which allows users to remain totally anonymous. Site bosses removed the clip after being alerted to it by the CEP. Former Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds, an adviser to the think-tank, said the video was a sign of the danger ISIS still poses to the public. He told The Sun: "The re-upload of this notorious bomb-making video shows that ISIS, despite their supposed defeat, are still active online, seeking to radicalise and inspire more despicable attacks. Salman Abedi gained crucial know-how from this video, and there is a real danger others will do the same.Tech platforms need to be held to a one-hour limit to find and remove terrorist content, and employ hashing technology to ensure it can be identified quickly and further uploads prevented.”

U.S. News & World Report: Amid Loss Of Leaders, Unknown Militant Rises In Philippines

“Unlike many of his slain comrades, the touted new leader of the Islamic State group in the southern Philippines lacks the bravado, clan name or foreign training. Not much is known about Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, but the attacks attributed to him heralding his rise are distinctly savage: A deadly bombing, which authorities say was a suicide attack by a foreign militant couple, blasted through a packed Roman Catholic cathedral in the middle of a Mass. The Jan. 27 attack, which killed 23 people and wounded about 100 others on southern Jolo Island, and another suspected suicide bombing on nearby Basilan Island last July that officials said he masterminded, put Sawadjaan in the crosshairs of the U.S.-led global campaign against terrorism. It also comes at a time when the Islamic State group's last enclave in eastern Syria is near its imminent downfall, signaling an end to the territorial rule of the self-declared “caliphate” that once stretched across much of Syria and Iraq. A recent U.S. Department of Defense report to Congress said without elaborating that it believed Sawadjaan was the “acting emir,” or leader, in the Philippines of the Islamic State group, also known by its acronym ISIS. It added that no actual leader is confirmed to have been designated by the main ISIS command in the Middle East as of late last year.”

United States

The Wall Street Journal: Coast Guard Officer Accused Of Planning Terror Attack Amassed An Arsenal

“A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant arrested last week who federal authorities say was planning a domestic terrorist attack had amassed an arsenal of firearms and gun components used to fabricate untraceable home-built weapons. Among the more than a dozen firearms and ammunition in the Maryland home of Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson, investigators said he also purchased machined components that make up the body of an AR-15-style rifle and other guns. Known as “80% lower receivers,” the parts don’t have serial numbers and are not subject to federal firearms laws. With a few easily-purchased tools, a skilled gun enthusiast can machine the remaining 20% of a weapon at home, producing an unregulated, untraceable gun. The unfinished receivers were “originally made and marketed for the hobbyist who wanted to make his own firearm, and then they became popular with people who didn’t want the government to know they had firearms,” said Rick Vasquez, a firearms consultant and former official with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. So-called ghost gun kits have exploded in popularity, along with online videos and tutorials instructing hobbyists how to fabricate them.”

The Washington Post: Former Metro Police Officer Who Tried To Back Islamic State Has Some Convictions Overturned

“A former police officer with the D.C. Metro system who is imprisoned for trying to help the Islamic State will get a new sentencing after an appeals court vacated two of his convictions. Nicholas Young remains guilty of the most serious charge against him. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit found there was not enough evidence to show that his obfuscation in interviews with federal agents was criminal. Young, who converted to Islam in 2006, was under FBI surveillance for years before his 2016 arrest. Twice he traveled to Libya to fight with anti-government rebels there. He was ultimately caught in a sting operation after sending gift cards to someone he believed had joined the Islamic State. When Young told agents that “Mo” had not gone to Syria, authorities thought he was trying to hinder their investigation. But he could not be charged with lying to the FBI, because he had actually told the truth. The man Young thought was an Islamic militant was actually an informant who never went further than Turkey and was then impersonated by an FBI agent in the United States. Prosecutors instead charged Young with two counts of attempting to obstruct justice, arguing that the police officer was savvy enough to know he was likely thwarting a grand jury investigation into his own conduct.”

Fox News: ISIS Wife Begging For US Return ‘Willing To Pay Her Debts,' Lawyer Says; Critics Say ‘Jihadists Have No Space’

“The woman now begging to return to the U.S. after fleeing and joining ISIS years ago "is willing to pay whatever debts she has to society” – even if it means serving a lengthy prison sentence, her family's lawyer told Fox News on Thursday. Hassan Shibly made the comments about Hoda Muthana on "America’s Newsroom" a day after President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed to keep Muthana out of the country and denied she was a U.S citizen. “She is accountable for her actions,” Shibly said. “She’s going to have to answer to God for her decisions.” Muthana, who is now 24, was thrust back into the news this week after admitting to The Guardian newspaper in an interview from northeast Syria that she wanted to go back to America with her 18-month-old son after a traumatizing four years with ISIS where “we starved and we literally ate grass.”

The New York Times: ISIS Cases Raise A Question: What Does It Mean To Be Stateless?

“Shamima Begum was 15 when she became radicalized, left her home in London for Syria and joined the Islamic State, marrying one of its fighters. As the group’s grip on its last pieces of territory slipped, Ms. Begum, 19 and pregnant, fled to a refugee camp in northern Syria. When she met a British reporter there, she made one thing clear: She wanted to come home. But Britain’s Home Office informed her family by letter of its plans to strip her of her citizenship. The government says it is acting to protect the British public first. But a lawyer for Ms. Begum, who recently gave birth to a baby boy, said the move would render the British-born woman stateless. The dilemma of what to do with citizens of Western countries who threw in their lot with the Islamic State before it was largely ousted from Syria has set off a debate over citizenship and the statelessness that might result from stripping some of them of their nationality.”

Bloomberg: Europe Can’t Keep Coddling Iran

“The European Union is trying to have it both ways on U.S. sanctions against Iran. It voices solidarity with the Trump administration’s concerns about the Islamic Republic’s rising threat to stability in the Middle East — most recently by expressing alarm at Iran’s ballistic-missile program and other “unacceptable behavior.” At the same time, EU leaders condone efforts by their member countries to skirt U.S. restrictions — as if to reassure the Iranian regime that trade can continue despite the U.S. decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal. Now, Germany, France and the U.K. have gone so far as to create a special purpose vehicle for trade with Iran that’s clearly designed to get around U.S. sanctions. This strategy is doomed to fail. The Trump administration won’t be fooled by it — or to any extent mollified by European finger-wagging at the regime in Tehran.”

CBS News: Father Of ISIS Bride Sues To Get U.S. To Let Her Come Back

“The father of an Alabama woman who joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria filed suit against the Trump administration Thursday in an effort to allow her return to the United States. Ahmed Ali Muthana argues in the suit filed in federal court in Washington that his 24-year-old daughter, Hoda Muthana, is an American citizen by birth and should be allowed to come back to the U.S. with her toddler son. Hoda Muthana is now in a Syrian refugee camp with the 18-month-old boy after fleeing the remnants of the Islamic State. Her lawyers said in a statement that she expects to be charged with providing material support to terrorism if she is allowed to return to the U.S. “Ms. Muthana has publicly acknowledged her actions and accepted full responsibility for those actions,” the lawyers said. “In Ms. Muthana's words, she recognizes that she has 'ruined' her own life, but she does not want to ruin the life of her young child.” “At the end of the day, she is a U.S. citizen, and whether Americans make crimes or not, that doesn't deprive them of their citizenship,” one of her attorneys, Hassan Shibly, told CBS News' Holly Williams. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the young woman is not a citizen and will not be admitted to the country.”

Detroit Free Press: Detroit Man Accused Of Making Terror Threats Arrested In Ohio

“Authorities say a man accused of threatening a mass shooting in Michigan has been arrested at a residence in Ohio. The U.S. Marshals Service says 28-year-old Cameron White, of Detroit, was arrested without incident by deputy marshals Wednesday in Youngstown. White is charged in Michigan with making a terrorist threat or false report of terrorism and using a computer to commit a crime. A Marshals Service spokeswoman says White had posted messages on social media saying he intended to carry out a mass shooting in the Detroit area “real soon.” No firearms were found on White when he was arrested. White is being held in the Mahoning County Jail until his extradition to Michigan. It couldn't be determined whether White has an attorney yet.”


NPR: U.S. Will Leave 200 'Peacekeeping' Troops In Syria

“The U.S. is not completely pulling out of Syria just yet. Some American troops will remain for the time being, the White House announced Thursday. In a one-sentence statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said: "A small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time." It's unclear how long the troops will remain there. According to The New York Times, the announcement came after a phone call between President Trump and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which the two leaders agreed to create a "safe zone" in Syria. In December, the White House said it would pull all 2,000 troops from Syria, a reversal of U.S. policy that reportedly was met with disapproval within the Pentagon, and prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign in protest. Troops began withdrawing in January, sparking criticism that the U.S. was leaving before it had completely eradicated the Islamic State presence there.”

BBC News: Islamic State: Thousands Of Foreign Children In Syrian Camps

“Thousands of children from around the world remain trapped in Syria facing an uncertain and dangerous future, a charity has warned. Save the Children says it has found more than 2,500 children from 30 countries in three camps alone. They are being held away from the camps' populations, in segregated areas with foreign women believed to be former Islamic State (IS) members. The warning comes as the debate over what to do with these children rages. The issue was brought to the fore after a number of women came forward to say they regretted their actions and wanted to return to their home countries, including the UK, US and France, so they could raise their children in peace. In response, the UK and US have barred two mothers from returning. But what does this mean for their children, and the thousands of others - some just days old - caught in an international battle? For many, it is clear. “There is a moral responsibility for every country to take these children back,” Usama Hasan, head of Islamic Studies at Quilliam International. “It is a moral duty.” It is not known exactly how many children there are. According to a 2018 report from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), at least 3,704 foreign-born children were taken to IS territory by their parents or carers, including 460 from France, at least 350 from Russia and almost 400 from Morocco.”

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Main Ally In Syria Welcomes Trump’s Reversal On Troops

“The U.S.’s main ally in the fight against Islamic State welcomed President Trump’s decision to leave U.S. troops in Syria, a change in American plans that the Syrian Kurds have lobbied for ever since the withdrawal announcement. The White House said the U.S. will maintain a small peacekeeping force of about 200 troops in Syria, a partial reversal of an earlier decision by President Trump to remove all American troops. The hastily announced withdrawal in December was criticized by members of his own administration, U.S. lawmakers and many of its coalition partners on concerns that it could allow Islamic State to regroup and weaken efforts to counter Iran in the region. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces repeatedly urged the U.S. to reconsider that decision, in part because it would leave them unprotected against Turkish plans to create a buffer zone in northern Syria. Ankara sees the Kurdish YPG militia—the main component of the SDF—as a threat to its country.”

The Washington Examiner: Save ISIS Babies, Not ISIS Terrorists

“Two or three times a year, I’ll head to Iraq to get a sense of where political and social debates might be heading. Whenever I go, I go commercial rather than insulate myself in the bubble of the military or the U.S. Embassy. It was during one of these trips, back in October 2017, when I noted Iraqi authorities were beginning to complain not only about the problem of captured Islamic State foreign fighters who professed remorse in the hope of returning to the United States or Europe but also about their babies. At the time, I wrote in the New York Post: “ISIS left behind hundreds of babies born to foreign fighters and non-Iraqi ISIS brides. Baghdad says these children are not Iraqi, and has demanded other countries take responsibility for them. European states like France and Germany so far, however, are refusing to repatriate these babies of terrorists.” The fate of captured Islamic State fighters or immigrants has now once again hit the headlines. The Trump administration, for example, is refusing to allow an Alabama woman who joined the Islamic State to return to the United States. British authorities have likewise stripped citizenship from a woman who joined the radical group. Many of these would-be returnees express remorse for their actions or deny that they played a lethal role for ISIS.”

The Independent: Only One In 10 Jihadis Returning From Syria Prosecuted, Figures Reveal

“Only one in 10 jihadis returning from Syria to the UK have been prosecuted, it can be revealed. Amid calls for the government to repatriate Shamima Begum for criminal investigation rather than remove her British citizenship, police have warned it is “no easy task” to evidence a suspect’s activities abroad. Ben Wallace, the security minister, said around 40 people “have been successfully prosecuted so far – either because of direct action they have carried out in Syria or, subsequent to coming back, linked to that foreign fighting”. But more than 400 people “of national security concern” are believed to have returned from conflicts in Syria and Iraq. The Home Office would not provide a breakdown of what offences the returnees were charged with or what groups they fought for, but the total includes at least one man convicted of trying to join Isis. Mr Wallace announced the figures during a parliamentary debate over expanded terror laws, which the government hopes will make prosecuting returning jihadis easier. Of more than 900 people who travelled to Syria and Iraq from the UK, he said at least 20 per cent are believed to have been killed.”

Voice Of America: New Airstrikes Target Last Islamic State Enclave

“Coalition warplanes launched new airstrikes against the last remaining enclave of the Islamic State terror group's self-declared caliphate after efforts to evacuate additional civilians stalled. The strikes, accompanied by artillery fire, targeted the outskirts of the final piece of IS-held territory in the eastern Syrian village of Baghuz on Thursday, a day after 2,000 civilians were evacuated from the area. “Coalition warplanes hit several targets on the western front,” Adnan Afrin, a commander with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, told VOA. “This created mayhem among the [IS] terrorists and gave an opportunity to some civilians in their captivity to flee,” he added. The strikes allowed hundreds of civilians to escape the IS enclave by foot, Afrin said, noting some fighters were taken into custody. Coalition and SDF officials say they believe hundreds of IS fighters remain holed up in Baghuz, many taking refuge in a collection of tents spanning no more than several hundred square meters. Officials, however, fear many IS fighters are also hidden in a network of tunnels and caves below the village, using an untold number of civilians as human shields. Efforts to negotiate the release of the civilians have been slow, as a core group of the remaining IS fighters refuses to surrender.”

Kurdistan 24: ISIS Sleeper Cell Attack Kills 14 Near Syrian Oil Field Used As Base

“A car bomb explosion on Thursday killed 14 oil workers and six conscripts in a village near a base the US-backed, Kurdish-led forces fighting the Islamic State use in Syria’s Deir al-Zor province. The car bomb targeted an oil field in the village of Shaheel, near another oil field that hosts the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Footage the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) published showed the location of the bombing with burned bodies scattered everywhere. The SOHR blamed the attack on Islamic State sleeper cells that remain active in rural areas in eastern Deir al-Zor. Meanwhile, the Kurdish Hawar News Agency (ANHA) said 15 workers were killed near the Shaheel hospital after they left the field. An SDF spokesperson told AFP the attack mostly killed oil workers, as well as fighters in the village of Shaheel. They also blamed it on Islamic State sleeper cells. The SDF’s fight against the Islamic State in the last village of Baghuz is ongoing. The extremist group still controls less than one square kilometer. However, the presence of civilians has delayed the fight. Last week, the SDF leadership underlined in a statement that after the militant group is defeated, the Kurdish-led forces would focus on the elimination of sleeper cells through precise “military and security campaigns” with support from the US-led coalition.”


Reuters: Iran Starts Gulf War Games, To Test Submarine-Launched Missiles

“Iran on Friday began large-scale naval drills at the mouth of the Gulf, which will feature its first submarine cruise missile launches, state media reported, at a time of rising tensions with the United States. More than 100 vessels were taking part in the three-day war games in a vast area stretching from the Strait of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean, the state news agency IRNA reported. “The exercise will cover confronting a range of threats, testing weapons, and evaluating the readiness of equipment and personnel,” navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, said in remarks carried by state television. “Submarine missile launches will be carried out ... in addition to helicopter and drone launches from the deck of the Sahand destroyer,” Khanzadi said. State media said Iran would be testing its new domestically built Fateh (Conqueror) submarine which is armed with cruise missiles and was launched last week. Iranian officials in the past have threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route, in retaliation for any hostile U.S. action, including attempts to halt Iranian oil exports through sanctions. U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program last May and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.”

Daily Beast: To Target Israel, Iran’s ‘Suitcase’ GPS Kits Turn Hezbollah Rockets Into Guided Missiles

“The Warsaw Conference on Middle East Peace and Security last week didn’t seem to deliver much in the way of peace or security for the assorted countries attending. There was, to be sure, a lot of tough talk against Iran and the projection of a united front as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several senior Arab officials all gathered in one room. Yet far away from the bright lights of the Trump-engineered summit, on the business end of the battle against Iran, Israeli security officials have a singular preoccupation: suitcases. In interviews with The Daily Beast, senior Israeli military officers outlined new details about Iran’s plans to turn a vast arsenal of relatively dumb rockets in Syria and Lebanon into a deadly array of precision-guided missiles. The key, according to Israel, is a Global Positioning System (GPS) “kit” the size of small roll-aboard luggage.”


Deutsche Welle: Leaving Syria, Many Islamic State Members To Transit Turkey

“Turkey's government has repeatedly been criticized for the way that it has permitted fighters for the Islamic State, al-Qaida, the Nusra Front and similar terror organizations to transit the country relatively freely en route to Syria ever since the beginning of the civil war nearly eight years ago. “They will also use Turkey in order to leave Syria,” Metin Gurcan, a security researcher at the Istanbul Policy Center (IPC), told DW. That, he said, is why it is important for the Turkish and EU security services to work together. “Getting across the country will become extremely expensive for them,” Gurcan said. “Ankara needs to make sure that as few fighters as possible settle in Turkey.” He emphasized that it was vital that this topic be addressed by the international parties active in Syria's civil war. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly claimed that Turkey is fighting more than one terrorist organization in Syria: the Islamic State and the US-allied Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, who were instrumental against IS in the region. In addition, he has said that Turkish police carry out frequent raids on potential IS members. There are no official figures on the number of suspects arrested. In Turkey, the battle against IS and its former fighters is taking place in part before the courts.”


Reuters: New Taliban Political Chief To Miss Upcoming Peace Talks With U.S. Envoys

“Afghan Taliban leaders said on Thursday that their new political chief will not be attending peace talks with U.S. envoys due to take place in Qatar next week. U.S. officials had been keen to negotiate with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, hoping the Taliban’s co-founder and military veteran would add momentum and have the clout to discuss tough issues surrounding the end of America’s longest war. But senior Taliban leaders said Baradar would not be traveling to Qatar, citing different reasons including problems obtaining travel documents as well difference among the leadership over his precise role in the talks. Baradar was released from a Pakistani jail in October and his appointment was widely seen as marking a new push by the Taliban to emerge from the political and diplomatic shadows. Baradar, who earlier led the insurgent group’s military operations in southern Afghanistan, was arrested in 2010 by a team from Pakistan and U.S. intelligence agencies. A co-founder of the movement, he was a close friend of the reclusive late Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, who gave him his nom de guerre, “Baradar” or “brother.”

The Washington Examiner: Trump's Taliban Dealing Is Already Destabilizing Africa

“There’s a tendency in Washington to compartmentalize every problem and to ignore the ramifications that policy toward one adversary can have upon others across time and distance. President Ronald Reagan’s decision to withdraw peacekeepers from Lebanon in the wake of the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing, for example, helped convince a young Osama Bin Laden that he could drive the United States entirely out of the Middle East, if not defeat America entirely. President Barack Obama’s decision to impose a timeline on the U.S. presence in Afghanistan likewise convinced not only the Taliban but also insurgents and Shiite militias in Iraq that the U.S. did not have staying power. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s framework plan for Afghanistan fits the same pattern. While President Trump might celebrate an agreement by which the Taliban pledge to deny Afghanistan’s territory to terrorist groups, this is the same deal to which the Clinton administration agreed in the years prior to the Sept. 11 terror attacks. While President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright could plead ignorance, however, Khalilzad cannot.”

Foreign Affairs: Is The Taliban Making A Pledge It Cannot Keep

“In Doha in late January, the United States and the Afghan Taliban agreed in principle to the contours of a peace deal. Under its terms, the Taliban would guarantee that Afghan territory will never be used by terrorists. The concession is critical to the United States, but while some commentators have heralded the Taliban’s promise as a major breakthrough, analysts have noted that the group has made, and failed to keep, similar assurances in the past. Questions remain about whether the Taliban is genuinely willing to break with al Qaeda—the very prospect at which the group balked back in 2001, prompting the United States to invade. The terrorist landscape in South and Central Asia extends far beyond al Qaeda. The Taliban has been fighting the Islamic State’s affiliate in the region, the Islamic State in Khorasan (ISK), inflicting serious losses without succeeding in eradicating this rival. Since 2002, the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan has been a unifying cause for militant organizations in the region.”


The National: Yemen Government Urges US To List Houthis As Foreign Terrorist Organisation

“Yemen's government has urged the US to designate the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organisation, citing the Iran-backed rebels' human rights record. The Minister of Information, Muammar Al Iryani, said late on Wednesday that the crimes committed by some members of the Houthi group amount to war crimes. “Since the start of the war, Houthi rebels have mobilised a generation of Yemeni youths, in areas that are under their control, with terror and aggressive ideologies,” Mr Al Iryani said during a meeting with the US Ambassador to Yemen, Mathew Tueller. The minister listed Houthi abuses against civilians as ranging from rape, torture, to disappearances, adding he did not believe the rebels were serious about finding a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict. Both the Trump and the Obama administration have examined the issue at hand, but both have been inconclusive.”

Foreign Policy: In Yemen, Targeting Of Aid Workers Risks Unraveling Crisis

“Representatives of international aid and humanitarian organizations operating in war-wracked Yemen say they are increasingly being targeted by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels on a scale that could jeopardize efforts to assist millions of civilians caught in what is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Aid workers told Foreign Policy that they are facing threats of attack in the areas controlled by the Houthis, which includes western parts of the country and Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. Members of the group detained one humanitarian worker, Awfa al-Naami, in late January and held her for weeks, releasing her on Feb. 16 after sustained diplomatic pressure. Naami is the country manager for Saferworld, a U.K.-based nonprofit operating in Yemen. Her detention rattled other aid officials and stoked fears that the group would stage similar abductions. (Saferworld declined to comment for this story.) The Houthis are likely testing the international community to see how much harassment and intimidation they can get away with, according to two aid workers. The two spoke to FP on condition of anonymity, fearing for their own safety and that of their colleagues.”


Arab News: Are The Latest Terror Incidents In Egypt A ‘Last Dance’ For Militants Or A Failure In Security Operations?

“Three terrorist attacks in the space of as many days have raised questions over whether the Egyptian security forces have brought extremist militancy in the country under control. The attacks between Friday and Monday came after a period of relative calm. The Egyptian military has been involved in an extensive operation against terrorist groups in their stronghold in the Sinai Peninsula for more than a year. Police forces have also been carrying out operations against cells in a large number of governorates. The first of the three incidents was a failed attempt to plant a bomb near security forces in Cairo on Friday. On Saturday, however, a massive blast killed 14 members of the military on a security mission near El-Arish in Sinai. The third bombing on Monday could have been just as deadly. A suicide bomber blew himself up after he was chased by police in the densely populated Al-Hussein district of Cairo near Al-Azhar Mosque. In the end three officers were killed. The attacks came after months of relative calm in an insurgency that began after the Muslim Brotherhood president Muhammad Mursi was removed from power in 2012. Since then, militants have targeted the Egyptian security forces, churches, coptic Christians, tourists and ordinary Egyptians, killing hundreds. In November 2017, gunmen carried out the deadliest terror attack in Egyptian history — killing more than 300 people at a Sufi mosque in northern Sinai. In response, the military launched a vast operation in February last year to “eliminate terrorism in Egypt.” The operation is ongoing."


The Seattle Times: In Nigeria, Boko Haram Violence Disenfranchises Many Voters

“Mariam Musa gestured with her hand toward her mouth, twisting her face as she told of her main problem: not enough to eat or drink. In the makeshift camp Nigerians who have fled Boko Haram violence, the 32-year-old widow says that the upcoming presidential vote isn’t a topic of conversation. That’s because nearly all are more worried about putting food on the table. Lacking voter cards or afraid to trek back to their home villages where armed extremists may lurk, most of the 1,200 people in Malkohi camp are unlikely to vote in Saturday’s presidential election. “God help us,” said Musa, one of many widows living in this makeshift settlement in Yola, capital of Nigeria’s northern Adamawa state. “We have no salt, no palm oil, nothing.” Asked if she planned to vote, she smiled ruefully and said: “I hear there is an election, but I lost my voter’s card.” Over 84 million Nigerians are registered voters in this West African country of more than 190 million. But in some parts of the north, where an insurgency by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has killed more than 27,000 people and displaced millions, thousands likely won’t be able to participate in the election. There are concerns about whether voting can take place at all in some areas facing arson attacks by alleged militants.”


Punch Nigeria: Five Killed, Several Kidnapped In Boko Haram Attacks In Chad

“Boko Haram jihadists killed five people, wounded five others, and kidnapped nine — including six women — in attacks on two villages in western Chad, an official source told AFP Thursday. The attacks took place Tuesday night, according to Dimouya Soiapebe, general secretary of Lake Chad province. “Five people were killed and five wounded” in the first assault, on the village of Bouboura, while the kidnappings took place in a second attack on the village of Ngasia, Soiapebe said. Chadian troops were searching for the attackers and their hostages, he added. The following night, seven cowherds and more than 200 head of cattle were seized in the same area by people suspected of belonging to Boko Haram. One cowherd managed to escape, the general secretary said. Boko Haram is active mainly in Nigeria, but the group periodically stages raids in neighbouring countries such as Chad, Niger, and Cameroon. It is blamed for the deaths of at least 20,000 people, mostly in Nigeria. Troops from Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria have been grouped into a mixed, multi-national force to fight the jihadist group.”

North Korea

Associated Press: Worry About US-Skorea Alliance Grows Before Trump-Kim Summit

“As President Donald Trump seeks a nuclear deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next week in Vietnam, some in Seoul are wondering if the fate of Washington’s decades-long military alliance with South Korea could be at stake. Much of this worry is linked to Trump’s repeated assertions that the U.S. military deployment in South Korea is too costly, and to his surprise suspension of some U.S. military exercises with South Korea — including a major summertime drill — as a concession to Kim after their first summit in Singapore last year. Added to this concern are policies by South Korea’s liberal President Moon Jae-in that critics say favor engagement with North Korea at the expense of the alliance with Washington. The broader U.S.-South Korean alliance, sealed during the bloodshed of the 1950-53 Korean War, won’t be on the negotiating table during the summit in Hanoi on Feb. 27-28. But some observers say its long-term future could be in doubt and that Trump may eventually withdraw some of the 28,500 U.S. troops deployed in South Korea.”

United Kingdom

The Washington Post: How Countries May Try To Avoid Taking Back ISIS Fighters And Their Families

“British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said late Wednesday that he would not render any individual “stateless.” But Shamima Begum, a 19-year-old Briton, and other foreign nationals who moved to the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate and now want to return home may ultimately be left in citizenship limbo. Javid made the statement after the British government announced that Begum, who was 15 when she left for Syria to marry a fighter with the extremist group, also known as ISIS, would be stripped of her British citizenship but could claim Bangladeshi citizenship because of her family’s Bangladeshi heritage. Bangladesh announced, however, that it would not give Begum citizenship. “I’m not going to talk about an individual, but I can be clear on the point that I would not take a decision, and I believe none of my predecessors ever have taken a decision, that at the point the decision is taken would leave that individual stateless,” Javid said. Javid did not specify whether that meant Britain would still go ahead with its decision to strip Begum of her citizenship. “My number one job is to do whatever I can to keep this country safe,” he said. Begum’s case has garnered international attention, highlighting the legal limbo faced by foreign fighters and their family members as they try to return home to face justice.”


The Washington Post: German Police Detain 2 In Alleged Islamic Extremist Plot

“A German-Moroccan couple was arrested Thursday in central Germany on charges they were planning an Islamic extremist attack. A series of raids included searches of the homes of 12 other suspects, Frankfurt prosecutors said. Frankfurt prosecutor Nadja Niesen said authorities believe the suspects were in the early stages of planning an attack in Germany. “There was not yet a concrete attack target that we’re aware of,” she said. The couple, both 26 and German-Moroccan dual nationals, tried to travel with their two young children to Syria in 2016 to join the Islamic State extremist group, but were captured in Turkey and deported back to Germany, Niesen said. They were arrested at their home in the Raunheim area, southwest of Frankfurt in the state of Hesse. Overall, some 200 police officers raided 15 homes in Ruesselsheim, Biebesheim, and Raunheim in Hesse as well as one in Kerpen in North Rhine-Westphalia The nationalities of the other suspects were given as either German or German-Moroccan. The 12 were between 22 and 33 years old and face charges of accessory to planning an attack in Germany, Niesen said. No names were released in line with German privacy regulations.”


Newsmax: Analyst: Iran, Hezbollah Won't Abandon Cells In Venezuela

“Hezbollah is "well-entrenched" in Venezuela — and will likely stay that way even if there is a regime change, according to RAND political scientist and analyst Colin Clarke. In a commentary, Clarke said no one should be surprised at Hezbollah's presence — or its incentive. "Hezbollah is well-entrenched in Venezuela, where the Shiite terrorist group has long worked to establish a vast infrastructure for its criminal activities, including drug trafficking, money laundering, and illicit smuggling," Clarke wrote. "Whatever the benefits of replacing the current Venezuelan regime with Washington's preferred alternative, there's reason to doubt that it would change the country's problematic relationship with the terrorist group," he added.”


The Telegraph: Culture Secretary Pledges Social Media Will Be Regulated In Rebuff To Facebook Lobbying

“Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright has slapped down Facebook’s global spokesman Nick Clegg who has been lobbying to water down Government plans to crackdown on social media firms. Mr Wright, who met Mr Clegg in London before yesterday meeting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, rejected the former LibDem leader’s proposals for “co-regulation” where Government and the tech giants would share developing new rules to police social media. The Culture Secretary said: “It’s not a phrase I would use. The regulations will come from Government. If regulation is what is needed only Governments can produce it.” His comments came as he warned the tech giants that the era of self-regulation is “coming to an end.” And although he was happy to discuss his White Paper plans with the tech firms, he was not going to be deterred from legislating to combat online harms.”

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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