Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Rishabh Bhandari, Quinta Jurecic
Monday, August 22, 2016, 3:18 PM

At least 51 people were killed and another 69 wounded after a suicide bomber struck a wedding ceremony in southeastern Turkey on Saturday. At a press briefing the next day, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the assailant was a child suicide bomber affiliated with the Islamic State and aged between 12 and 14. The attack is the deadliest in Turkey so far this year. The Hürriyet Daily News has more.

The Associated Press fills us in on the global response to the bombing. Both the United States and Russia have issued statements pledging continued counterterrorism partnerships with Turkey. Vice President Joe Biden is set to visit Ankara on Wednesday for a long-planned visit originally announced in response to the failed coup attempt.

Erdogan vowed on Monday to “completely cleanse” the Islamic State’s presence from Turkey’s border region. ISIS has repeatedly targeted Turkish Kurds in what appear to be an efforts to excite sectarian tensions between the Kurds and the Turkish state, and many Kurds in southeastern Turkey have criticized the government for not doing enough to protect them from ISIS attacks. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party said the targeted wedding was for one of its members. Reuters has more.

The Associated Press reminds us that the Islamic State has a history of using children as weapons, sending them with strapped explosives to the front lines in Iraq and Syria. The terrorist organization retains a cadre of child soldiers, dubbed “cubs of the caliphate,” and seeks to indoctrinate captured children with the group’s radical version of Islam.

Iraqi police apprehended yet another would-be child suicide bomber in the city of Kirkuk on Sunday night. The boy was arrested just an hour after a suicide bomb attack on a local mosque that wounded two people. According to local authorities, the boy said he had been abducted by masked men who strapped the bomb on him. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the mosque bombing but has not mentioned the boy.

The Kurdish YPG militia is closing in on the last government-controlled parts of the northeastern Syrian city of Hasaka after calling on pro-government militias to surrender. The fighting this week in Hasaka marks the most intense confrontation between the Kurdish YPG militia and the Syrian regime in more than five years of civil war. It forms part of a broader battle for control of the long border area abutting Turkey. Reuters has more.

Just a week after Russia began using an Iranian air base to launch strikes into Syria, Iran announced on Monday that the Kremlin will no longer be making use of the base. The news came on the heels of criticism by the Iranian defense minister that Moscow had been high-handed in its public handling of the arrangement, and concern on the part of Iranian lawmakers that Russia’s use of Iranian facilities constituted a violation of the country’s constitutional ban on the establishment of any foreign military bases. But the Russian military said the cessation may be reversed if circumstances in Syria warrant a change in strategy.

The Washington Post reports that the Taliban have seized a government-controlled district in Kunduz, a northern province in Afghanistan, cutting off two key highways leading to the provincial capital. The latest Taliban gains in the country’s north, far from its traditional powerbase, is a sign of Kabul’s growing weakness and the internal conflicts that are roiling the counterinsurgency campaign.

Reuters reveals that Pakistani border forces killed six people in a remote village near the country’s northwestern border with Afghanistan. The Pakistani army claimed the six people killed in the attack were all terrorists. The army began a new wave of operations against the Pakistani Taliban last week that have killed at least 31 people so far.

The Associated Press writes that the Israeli military conducted a series of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, targeting Hamas positions in response to a Palestinian rocket attack that hit an Israeli border town earlier in the day. Two Palestinians were wounded in the strikes, including a 17 year-old boy. No Israelis were injured as a result of the Palestinian rocket attack. The Guardian adds that Israel’s response is “unusually strong” for an action conducted during the current period of relative calm in the area. But conventional wisdom suggests that Hamas—which remains weak from its 2014 clash with Israel—is not seeking to escalate hostilities.

Buzzfeed reports on the challenges facing Europe’s counterterrorism community as the Islamic State’s ability to radicalize, recruit, and inspire lone wolf attacks grows. European police must now consider tens of thousands of Europeans as suspects, while coordination efforts across the European Union remain logistically challenging.

The Wall Street Journal tells us that Muslim extremists jailed in the United Kingdom will now be segregated from their fellow inmates. This policy shift arose after a recent report documented the prison system’s inability to combat the problem of “radicalization behind bars.” Britain is concerned that terrorists are using jail time as an opportunity to recruit petty felons into their fold.

The Associated Press writes that Secretary of State John Kerry will be holding talks in Kenya to discuss regional stability and counterterrorism with the country’s leaders. Kenya is surrounded by turmoil, as political violence plagues neighboring South Sudan and nearby Burundi and al Shabaab continues to launch attacks in Somalia. Kerry is slated to travel to Nigeria on Wednesday to discuss the threat posed by Boko Haram.

At least 20 people were killed and dozens wounded by a suicide bombing in central Somalia on Sunday, the Times tells us. Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack.

A member of the extremist Islamist group Ansar Dine has plead guilty before the International Criminal Court for his role in directing the destruction of ancient Muslim monuments in Timbuktu in 2012 and 2013, the Journal reports. While the destruction of historical monuments was defined as a war crime by the Rome Statute, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi is the first person to face trial for the crime. Mahdi’s guilty plea is also the first ever at the ICC.

China held war games in the Sea of Japan last week, the AP writes. A statement by the Chinese Defense Ministry did not indicate why the Sea of Japan was chosen as the location for the exercises or what type of conflict the exercises were designed in response to. Tensions have been high between China and its neighbors in the region over disputed territory in the South and East China Seas.

Despite rising tensions, foreign ministers from Japan, China, and South Korea will convene for an annual trilateral meeting in Tokyo this week. Reuters tells us that the meeting will represent the first visit to Japan by China’s foreign minister following Japan’s 2012 purchase of three of the disputed Senkaku Islands, ownership of which has long been a source of tension between China and Japan.

South Korea and the United States will proceed with annual joint military drills this week, though North Korea has threatened to use a preemptive nuclear strike against any perceived aggression. Seoul has reiterated that the drills are defensive and are not intended as preparation to invade the North. The AP has more.

Politico reports that Democratic party leaders are now echoing a concern voiced by security specialists in response to the hacking of Democratic party information: future leaks could contain falsified details engineered by the Russian government to damage the party and Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy. Publicizing these concerns now may be a preemptive strategy to cast doubt on the credibility of any potentially falsified leaks released in the runup to the election.

In Reuters, James Bamford suggests that the NSA may have “another Snowden” on its hands. While the identity of the individual or individuals behind the recent theft and partial release of NSA code has not been established, Bamford writes that, “Rather than the NSA hacking tools being snatched as a result of a sophisticated cyber operation by Russia or some other nation, it seems more likely that an employee stole them”—likely an employee who began their activity after Snowden departed NSA in May 2013.

ICYMI: This Weekend, on Lawfare

Quinta Jurecic posted the latest episode of the Lawfare Podcast, in which Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey answer questions submitted by Lawfare’s Twitter followers over the past week.

Sean Yom and Katrina Sammour examined the recruiting landscape in Jordan to understand what factors impelled young Jordanians to join the Islamic State.

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.