Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Quinta Jurecic
Monday, November 14, 2016, 3:39 PM

A suicide bomber killed four Americans at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on Saturday morning, the New York Times writes. 16 American servicemembers and one Polish soldier were also wounded in the bombing, for which the Taliban quickly claimed responsibility. Officials shuttered the base and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Sunday to any Afghans in response to the attack.

The Washington Post tells us that Afghan officials believe the attacker to have been a local laborer affiliated with the Taliban who had previously worked on the base “for some time.” The bombing underlines American concerns about the safety of U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan, along with worries within the Afghan government about a potential U.S. withdrawal from the country under the next administration.

In Iraq, the battle for Mosul drags on. The Wall Street Journal reports that Iraqi troops moving deeper into the city are facing reduced resistance from the Islamic State following the terrorist group’s loss of Mosul’s outermost neighborhoods. U.S. special forces are accompanying Iraqi forces, while Iraqi and Kurdish troops continue their advance toward Mosul. The city’s large civilian population has made urban warfare particularly difficult as troops struggle to keep civilians out of the line of fire.

Meanwhile, Iraqi soldiers regained control of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud on Sunday, Reuters writes. ISIS fighters captured the town two years ago and destroyed many of the historic ruins, releasing video of the devastation. Nimrud is located roughly 20 miles south of Mosul.

In Syria, the U.S. presidential election has added a new element of uncertainty to an already volatile situation. The next administration may well bring an end to support for Syrian rebel fighters, the Times notes. The mood in Syria is tense as rebel fighters wait to see whether the president-elect will make good on his apparent promises and Syrian regime officials weigh Trump’s relative support for the regime against his comments denigrating Muslims.

The U.S. special forces soldiers killed while entering a military base in Jordan earlier this month were involved in the CIA effort to train Syrian rebels, the Post reports. The soldiers were shot at a checkpoint of a Jordanian base in what may have been either a mistake by Jordanian troops or an intentional terrorist attack, though Jordanian officials have suggested the former. The CIA has not provided further details on the extent of the servicemembers’ work on the agency’s programs.

The Times examines U.S. support for the Saudi-led military coalition bombing Yemen, which has been strongly criticized by human rights groups for its targeting of civilian areas and critical infrastructure. Some observers argue that the coalition is intentionally devastating Yemen’s economy as a military strategy, though coalition leaders have rejected these criticisms and continue to blame the Houthi rebels for the country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis. It remains unclear whether Donald Trump, who has been sharply critical of Saudi Arabia, will maintain U.S. support for the coalition.

At least 52 people were killed and 100 wounded in an apparent suicide bombing at a Sufi shrine in southwest Pakistan on Saturday, the Times writes. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, though Pakistani officials remain dubious of the group’s claims.

The Journal tells us that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will present a revised peace deal with FARC rebels before the country’s legislature, bypassing the referendum process by which a previous deal was rejected. The revised agreement incorporates concessions from FARC on the extent of the group’s ability to participate in national politics but does not mandate jail time for rebel leaders or ban FARC from political participation entirely, which some of the deal’s opponents had pushed for.

It’s been a year since the Paris attacks at the Bataclan concert hall and elsewhere in the city. The Post returns to the attack’s survivors, examining their response to both the violence of November 2015 and an increasingly fearful Europe.

In response to president-elect Donald Trump’s hostility toward NATO over the campaign season, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg penned an op-ed on Sunday arguing that “going it alone is not an option, either for Europe or for the United States.” Stoltenberg reiterated his reminder that NATO’s Article V clause committing members to collective defense has only been invoked once, in response to the 9/11 attacks.

Trump selected white nationalist Stephen Bannon as his “chief strategist” yesterday, an appointment that has caused delight among white supremacist groups and uproar among those familiar with Bannon’s avowed commitment to extreme right-wing politics, racism, and anti-Semitism, along with his history of domestic violence. Meanwhile, an FBI report indicates that attacks against Muslim Americans increased by 67% from 2014 to 2015—a sobering figure amidst widespread reports of a surge in hate crimes and other white supremacist violence following Tuesday’s election. The Times has more.

The president-elect will soon learn the United States’ “deep secrets,” Bob Woodward writes at the Post—that is, its covert actions and intelligence sources and methods. The Times takes a look at the security architecture left behind by President Obama and asks whether the Trump will be able to take advantage of the current administration’s unwillingness to definitively repudiate what Obama perceived as the executive overreaches of the Bush administration.

At the Miami Herald, Carol Rosenberg asks what will become of Guantanamo under President Trump. During his campaign, Trump promised to keep the detention center open and “load it up with some bad dudes,” but efforts expand the prison’s population will likely be met with a flurry of litigation. The Daily Beast also writes that prominent Trump supporter and former CIA officer Jose Rodriguez, who was closely involved with the CIA’s use of torture under the Bush administration, has expressed hope that a Trump administration will be able to bring back interrogation measures that have since been made illegal, along with unspecified further techniques.

Wikileaks leaker Chelsea Manning has formally petitioned President Obama to reduce her 25-year prison sentence to time served, the Times reports. Manning’s petition, which includes a letter of support from Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, announces her “full and complete responsibility” for her actions and describes her difficult emotional state at the time of the leak. She has attempted to commit suicide multiple times during her six years of imprisonment.

 

ICYMI: This Weekend, on Lawfare

Zachary Burdette reviewed Lawfare’s week.

Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes argued that President Obama should pardon Hillary Clinton before he leaves office, despite the presumption of innocence.

Quinta Jurecic posted the Lawfare Podcast, “The First Day of the Rest of Our Lives” edition.

In the Foreign Policy Essay, Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault argued that Donald Trump has normalized the use of torture.

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