We begin with coverage and analysis of President Obama’s speech at West Point yesterday. Mark Landler of the New York Times outlines the foreign policy vision the president articulated, as do David Nakamura and Ernesto Londono of the Washington Post. The Hill has statements from lawmakers who didn’t care for the speech; these include Sen. John McCain, Rep. Mac Thornberry, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The Times also has reactions from critics. Ex-CIA Director Michael Hayden called the plan to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan “dangerous.”
Afghans seem to agree with Hayden—according to the Post, anyway—which describes their anxieties after President Obama announced a new withdrawal schedule that has American tro0ps leaving by 2016.
Lists are all the rage these days: Adam Entous of the Wall Street Journal has five takeaways from the speech, and Kevin Sieff of the Post has five harsh truths about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
And of course, there are the editorials. The Washington Post editorial argues that “the president’s address offered scant comfort“ to his “doubters” and says that “this binding of U.S. power places Mr. Obama at odds with every U.S. president since World War II.” The New York Times editorial said “the address did not match the hype, was largely uninspiring, lacked strategic sweep and is unlikely to quiet his detractors, on the right or the left.” The Wall Street Journal editorial discussed subjects that the president left out.
In other news, Edward Snowden’s interview with NBC’s Brian Williams aired yesterday. Snowden said in the interview “Sometimes to do the right thing you have to break the law.” The Hill covers that story. Snowden also said “I actually did go through channels, and that is documented.” NBC apparently found traces of an email he sent to the NSA’s general counsel office a month before he left the country. Secretary of State John Kerry challenged Snowden to “man up” and return to the United States. Here’s video of Snowden’s interview:
Meanwhile, the Times has a story about one Joshua L. Dratel, a criminal defense lawyer who has represented many of the more notorious faces of terrorism over the last thirty years. He was the first civilian lawyer at Guantanamo Bay, representing David Hicks; his other clients have included Bin Laden’s personal secretary, Wadih El-Hage, and recently-convicted British cleric, Mostafa Kamel Mostafa.
Reuters informs us that former army Egyptian chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has won 93 percent of the vote in Egypt’s presidential election. Turnout was low, however, with only 46 percent of eligible voters participating. Al-Sisi’s contender raised questions about the legitimacy of the election; voting was extended for a third day after turnout was lower than expected, says the Journal.
Speaking of questionable elections, in the midst of civil war, Syria is preparing for a (sham) presidential election in which the delightful President Bashar al-Assad is expected to win a third seven-year term by a landslide. The Post discusses the event.
Charles Lister, who wrote one of our Foreign Policy essays, has a new paper called “Dynamic Stalemate: Surveying Syria’s Military Landscape,” which is required reading for those looking to make sense of the myriad actors in the Syrian conflict. He also has this handy glossary of forces in the Syrian civil war.
A U.S. citizen suspected of involvement with the terrorist group Al-Nursa Front has conducted a suicide truck bombing in northern Syria.
A senior Hezbollah commander, who was on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list, has died fighting alongside pro-government forces in Syria.
There has been a big rift in the Pakistani Taliban. Read all about the drama here.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will come to a decision “fairly soon” about whether to transfer six Guantanamo Bay detainees to Uruguay.
Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald reports that a Periodic Review Board has approved Yemeni detainee Ghaleb Nassar al Bihani for eventual release.
MH370, the missing Malaysian Airlines flight, is not, after all, in an area of the Indian Ocean where four “pings” were detected.
In cyber news, Ellen Nakashima reports that Iranian hackers targeted hundreds of high-ranking U.S. officials through social media, luring them to a fake news site which features foreign policy and defense stories. Siobhan Gorman of the Journal has more.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers warned that the Senate needs to pass a cybersecurity bill by August. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) passed the House over a year ago and is gathering dust in the Senate.
And, another Mike Rogers, this one the director of the NSA, forgot the name of an NSA program at a speech he was giving. It is hard to keep all those acronyms straight.
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