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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 9:35 AM

The Pakistani Taliban returned to Karachi’s international airport yesterday, after carrying out a deadly attack on Sunday night. The New York Times reports that yesterday’s attack was more subdued than Sunday’s: it caused no casualties, but certainly did “underscore [the attackers'] ability to create mayhem in the country’s largest city.” CNN also covers the story.

The Wall Street Journal considers the implications of Pakistan’s recent wave of Taliban violence, explaining that the Pakistani government is caught between a rock and a hard place: a military offensive against the Taliban would surely incite violent backlash, but inaction would leave the Pakistani people at extreme risk.

There are more details on the developing story in the Iraqi city of Mosul that Tara highlighted yesterday. The BBC confirms that Islamist militants have taken control of Mosul, and further explains that the situation could prove to be a crucial turning point in Iraq’s future. Al Jazeera reports that tens of thousands of residents of the city are fleeing, but with really nowhere to go.  Meanwhile, according to the Times, Iraq’s army has been plagued by desertions.

The Times brings news that militants who took control of Mosul are moving south, towards Baghdad. Baiji, an oil refining town situated between Mosul and Bagdhad, is apparently already under militant control.

Citing the recent attacks in the Middle East, the Post explains that the United States is now more worried about al Qaeda splinter groups than the core al Qaeda group itself.

The Independent takes a closer look at the man who led the insurgent charge against Mosul. Bakr al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu Dua, is being dubbed “the most powerful jihadi leader in the world.” He is the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The Washington Post follows up on the story of how the man came to lead the al Qaeda offshoot. (For those of you who read French, Le Monde dubs Abu Dua the “new Bin Laden”.)

ISIL has also been active in the northern parts of Syria, which border Iraq. The AP reports that ISIL has effectively taken over Syria’s oil-rich Deir el-Zour province, hoping to link the territories it controls in both Syria and Iraq together. The group has killed at least 630 people and displaced 130,000 in the Syrian province since the the end of April.

Apropos of Syria, the ICC has been handed a list of suspected war criminals in Syria. To no one’s real surprise, President Bashar al-Assad is at the very top of the list. Reuters has the details. Meanwhile, Robert Ford, a former U.S. Ambassador to Syria, calls for the provision of more training and materiel to moderates in the Syrian opposition.

Business Insider informs us that Kenya is facing a growing al Qaeda threat, mostly from insurgents flooding in from neighboring Somalia.  But support for al Shabaab (a Somali terrorist group allied with al Qaeda) is growing within Kenya as well. The Kenyan government is trying to deal with the inbound Somali threat, by rounding up Somali immigrants and increasing border control; it is having  more trouble suppressing the domestic threat.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will testify before the House Armed Services Committee this morning. His subject will be the Bergdhal-for-detainees trade. The Times outlines how Secretary Hagel has prepared for the testimony, and says he is fully prepared to “forcefully defend” the deal he authorized.

The National Journal tells us that many members of Congress believe President Obama violated the 30-day notification provision outlined in the NDAA ,when he ordered the transfer of five Guantanamo detainees in exchange for Sgt Bergdhal’s release from Taliban captivity. The members nevertheless believe that there’s not much that they can do about it.

The Hill reports that Senate Democrats are breaking ranks with the White House over the administration’s Afghanistan timeline. They don’t think American troops are being withdrawn fast enough, and they’re calling President Obama out for shirking a previous commitment to be gone from Afghanistan by 2014.

Charlie Savage of the Times reports that John P. Fitzpatrick, director of the Information Security Oversight Office, has deemed it legitimate, on national security protection grounds, for Marines to classify pictures showing American forces posing with the corpses of Afghan Taliban fighters. President Obama had previously issued an Executive Order that barred classification in order to cover up illegal or embarrassing conduct.

NPR’s The Takeaway had a chat with the ACLU’s Ben Wizner, one of Edward Snowden’s legal advisors. Wizner told NPR that Snowden will come back to the United States—just “not under this regime.”

Microsoft is resisting a U.S. government warrant demanding the handover of customer data. The Post reflects on the dispute’s potential ramifications. The data in question is stored overseas; in that respect, Microsoft argues that the United States should abide by its mutual legal assistance treaty obligations, here by seeking prior authorization from an Irish court before obtaining the data. The United States, on the other hand, argues that its request is in line with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and that the location of the data is irrelevant: the company is an American one, and thus properly subject to search without any additional additional, treaty-based process. Oral arguments on the matter are scheduled for July.

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