Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Monday, October 23, 2017, 1:22 PM

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, the AP reported. Tillerson stopped at Bagram Air Force Base during a trip to the Middle East and South Asia. At a press conference, he offered support to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The visit comes as Afghanistan’s security forces recover from a string of Taliban attacks last week that killed over 200 security forces personnel and civilians.

Tillerson made the stop shortly after warning European companies not to transact with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the New York Times reported. He said new U.S. sanctions measures would penalize any business that deals with the IRGC. European diplomats have said they would oppose such measures. The IRGC may also face difficulties in Iran: the Times’ Thomas Erdbrink wrote about Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s ongoing crackdown against the group.

The State Department revoked a visa for Bill Browder, a major critic of the Russian government, NPR reported. Browder is a British citizen who campaigned for the creation of the Magnitsky Act, an anti-Russian government sanctions law. On the same day that the U.S. cancelled his visa, the Kremlin issued an arrest warrant for Browder through Interpol. Russian prosecutors have alleged that Browder had a role in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, the lawyer whose death led to the creation of the sanctions law, according to the Times. Russian officials jailed Magnitsky after he exposed a corruption scheme and let him die in prison.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis is meeting with officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Philippines to discuss the North Korean nuclear threat, the Wall Street Journal reported. On Monday, Mattis met with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts. He plans to also discuss North Korea with ministers from India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The Air Force is making plans to put its nuclear-armed bomber fleet back on 24-hour alert, Defense One reported. Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, said military leaders are preparing to reinstate the Cold War practice of keeping nuclear-armed B-52 bombers on permanent ready alert.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) seized Syria’s largest oil field from the Islamic State, the Times reported. The SDF narrowly beat Russian-backed Syrian government forces to the prized territory in the desert near Deir al-Zour. Now, the SDF will directly face the Syrian Army, raising the risk of confrontation between the competing forces’ international partners.

Congressional investigators will interview Brad Parscale, the 2016 Trump campaign’s digital director, the Journal reported. The House intelligence committee is looking into Parscale’s involvement with the Trump campaign’s social media outreach efforts. In an interview with “60 Minutes,” Parscale denied that anyone on the campaign colluded with foreign actors. Democrats on the intelligence committee privately criticized the Republican majority for “what they called a partisan effort to discredit rather than investigate” Trump campaign collusion with Russia, Reuters reported. Staffers say that the Republicans are attempting to undermine the credibility of Fusion GPS, the firm that commissioned the Steele dossier. A spokesperson for Rep. Devin Nunes, the committee chairman, called the complaints “utterly baseless.”

Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chuck Schumer said they were surprised to find out that the U.S. has deployed over 1,000 troops in Niger, the Daily Beast reported. Both senators said that the recent deaths of four U.S. soldiers in Niger had shed light on the extent of U.S. military activities in central and west Africa.

The Journal’s Kate O’Keefe, Aruna Viswanatha and Cezary Podkul described how China’s hunt for exiled billionaire Guo Wengui led to tense negotiations between U.S. and Chinese officials.

The AP’s Lori Hinnant and Sarah El Deeb detailed how U.S.-backed forces in Iraq have orders to kill foreign Islamic State fighters on the battlefield to prevent their return to the West.

The Times’ Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt and Adam Goldman described the CIA’s expanding mission in the war against the Afghan Taliban.

ICYMI: Last Weekend on Lawfare

Vanessa Sauter shared the Lawfare Podcast, featuring an interview with Timothy Edgar about his new book, Beyond Snowden.

In the Foreign Policy Essay, Robin Simcox analyzed policy options for stopping terrorists from using cars and trucks to attack civilians.

Lisa Daniels, David Kimball-Stanley and Ed Stein summarized Judge Theodore Chuang’s order for a preliminary injunction on the most recent travel ban in IRAP v. Trump.

Carrie Cordero highlighted comments from former CIA and NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden on the U.S.’s threat to global stability.

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