Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Cody M. Poplin
Tuesday, April 12, 2016, 2:40 PM

We begin today in Yemen, where Reuters reports that “a truce aimed at ending more than a year of war in Yemen appeared to be largely holding on Monday,” even though some residents said fighting remained ongoing in certain parts of the country. The U.N. ceasefire agreement is designed to create space for peace talks, which are scheduled to begin on April 18th in Kuwait. Yet while United Nations officials remained optimistic that the ceasefire violations were exceptions, the Wall Street Journal shares that the pockets of remaining violence are likely to dim the prospects for the talks, prolonging a war that has already killed over 6,000 Yemini civilians.

In Syria, ISIS militants recaptured the strategically important town of al-Rai, located along the Turkish border. BBC notes that since the end of March, rebel factions had captured more than a dozen ISIS-held villages along the Syrian-Turkish border, but over the last 48 hours, ISIS has retaken at least six of those villages.

Turkish artillery hit ISIS targets along the border again today in a response to repeated rocket fire that struck a town in southeastern Turkey. The town, according to Reuters, is “home to an estimated 110,000 Syrian refugees,” and is often targeted by ISIS militants firing across the border.

While ISIS made small gains in Syria to start the week, the U.S.-led offensive in Iraq appears to be gaining steam. Yet that success is raising new concerns among U.S. and U.N. officials who now worry that “efforts to stabilize liberated areas are lagging, creating conditions that could help militants endure as an underground network.” The Washington Post highlights another problematic dynamic: “most Iraqi Sunnis fear and distrust the forces that are ‘liberating’ them” from the Islamic State. In Mosul, 74 percent of Sunnis say that they do not want to be liberated by the Iraqi army on its own; a full 100 percent do not want to be liberated by Shiite militias or the Kurdish Peshmerga.

The New York Times reports that “three suicide bombers tried to attack a small police station in southern Russia on Monday,” but police opened fire on the attackers, killing two. A third man exploded his device, causing some damage to the building, but authorities reported that there were no other casualties. The attack occurred in Novoselitsk, a village near the city of Stavropol, and not far from the Northern Caucasus, which has faced a two-decade long Islamic insurgency—a movement ISIS recruiters have recently tried to tap into. It is not clear whether the attackers were ISIS inspired.

It’s fighting season once again in Afghanistan according to the Taliban, who announced the start of their warm weather offensive, promising “large-scale attacks.” The group said that the offensive would begin at 5 am today. But the announced uptick in attacks was preceded yesterday by a suicide bomb attack that struck a bus of army recruits in Nangarhar province, killing at least 12 and wounding dozens more. No group has yet taken responsibility for the attack, but the Times notes that “the targeting of the recruitment centers has long been a Taliban strategy.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is in Asia this week as part of a trip designed to shore up America’s relationships with key partners in the region. Earlier today in New Delhi, Carter and Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar announced that the two countries have agreed to improve their militaries capacity to coordinate during disasters. Carter also said that the United States is “more than willing” to share U.S. catapult technology necessary to launch fighters jets from aircraft carriers. The Times notes that the technology, if incorporated into India's next generation of aircraft carriers, could create opportunities for India to purchase U.S.-made FA-18 fighter jets.

As part of his trip, the Times reports that Secretary Carter will also cement a new agreement with the Philippines on Wednesday that will allow the United States to build facilities at five Philippine military bases. The agreement, made possible by a January ruling by the Philippine Supreme court, will also increase the number of U.S. troops, planes, and ships located across the country.

A former Energy Department employee was sentenced to 18 months in prison yesterday after he was convicted of “offering to help a foreign government in infiltrate the agency’s computer system to steal nuclear secrets and then attempting an email ‘spear-phishing’ attack in an FBI sting operation.” The employee, Charles Harvey Eccleston, pleaded guilty in February to one count of attempting to damage protected government computers. The Post has more.

According to the Associated Press, a former CIA operative has filed an appeal in Portugal’s Constitutional Court in an attempt to prevent her extradition to Italy, where she is set to serve a six-year sentence for her role in the U.S.’s extraordinary rendition program. The operative, Sabrine De Sousa, was convicted in absentia for her role in the 2003 rendition in Milan of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr.

The Miami Herald reports that Army Col. Judge James Pohl, the judge in charge of the military commissions trial of 5 alleged 9/11 plotters, has ruled that “remarks by political leaders stretching back to the George W. Bush presidency have the potential to taint” the trial. In the 19-page ruling, Judge Pohl said that defense attorneys will get “liberal challenges” when it is time to pick a jury. Judge Pohl declined the defense’s request to dismiss the case, however, saying that the fact-pattern did not demonstrate any unlawful influence in the decision to try the men in a capital case.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

C. Christine Fair argued that the United States has approached Pakistan in the wrong way for too long and that it is now time for a new way of engaging the South Asian country.

Ben reminded us to RSVP for Thursday’s lunch event at the Hoover Institution on “Using Data to Secure Networks: Optimizing Individual Privacy While Achieving Strong Security.” There’s still time to register!

Mieke Eoyang introduced her new paper “Beyond Privacy and Security: the role of the Telecommunications Industry in Electronic Surveillance,” published as part of the Hoover Institution’s National Security, Technology, and Law Working Group.

Cody shared The Week That Will Be, Lawfare’s weekly roundup of employment and event announcements.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.