Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tara Hofbauer, Cody M. Poplin
Tuesday, August 5, 2014, 1:50 PM

In this edition of Today's Headlines and Commentary, Lawfare will test out a new style convention. As you will see below, in order to make for easier skimming and locating within the post, we have boldfaced key people, places, groups, and events.  Enjoy.

In Afghanistan today, an attack on Camp Qargha, a military training post outside Kabul, has left a U.S. Army Major General dead and fifteen other NATO troops, including a German Brigadier General, wounded. According to the Associated Press, a gunman wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire on the base. None of the victims have been identified by name, but the American Major General is the highest-ranking U.S. officer killed during America’s 13-year-long offensive in Afghanistan. The New York Times also shares the story.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has disputed charges that Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili promoted “vote rigging in favor of [presidential candidate] Ashraf Ghani.”

Having trouble keeping up with all the complicated shifts in the Middle East? The Guardian provides a guide to the state of affairs in each of the countries within the region, including who they support in other countries. It’s a complex web.

Media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains heavy today, as a 72-hour ceasefire began at 8:00 AM local time. According to the Times, all Israeli Defense Forces have pulled out of Gaza, in accordance with the Egyptian-brokered agreement. Time examines five potential “longer-term solution[s].” Meanwhile, the AP reports that both Israel and Hamas are preparing for possible international war crimes investigations.

The AP shares news that Iran provided Hamas’ missile system, while the Verge informs us that the hacktivist group Anonymous is responsible for a number of cyberattacks that brought down Israeli government web pages.

The Washington Post informs us that yesterday, President Obama signed a bill appropriating $225 million to support Israel’s Iron Dome defense program. Meanwhile, according to the Hill, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has traveled to Israel to view first-hand the situation there. However, despite what would appear as strong support for the Jewish State, the Times notes that the current conflict has put a strain on U.S.-Israel relations as the Israeli government “has largely dismissed diplomatic efforts by the United States to end the violence in Gaza.”

Earlier this week, Reuters reported that Kurdish forces had suffered a series of defeats as insurgents associated with the Islamic State seized control of three more cities, a fifth oil field, and may have taken control of Iraq’s biggest dam. Al Jazeera America tells us that thousands of families have fled the majority Yazidi town of Sinjar fearing violent persecution from the Sunni extremists who consider their religion heretical. Following the attacks, the UN stated that a “humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sinjar.”

The resultant chaos of those losses may finally be forcing cooperation between the country’s many parties and ethnicities. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has ordered his government’s air force to support Kurdish forces currently engaged in battle with Sunni extremists in the north, the Times reports. According to the Times, the move may represent some form of temporary thaw in relations, although purely out of military necessity, between the central government and Kurdish leaders.

While ISIS is gaining ground, Al Jazeera America reminds us that it continues to control only a serpentine sliver of important towns and oil fields Iraq and Syria. Al Jazeera America provides a map of the areas where the Islamic State currently asserts control, contests government authority, and of areas from where it draws support.

Finally, the Daily Beast has a harrowing story of a Syrian teenager who was captured by ISIS and how he managed to escape.

In Syria, Reuters brings us a report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that Assad-government air strikes in the eastern suburbs of Damascus have killed at least 64 people since last Friday.

Meanwhile, the violence in Syria may be beginning to spill into Lebanon, as Lebanese troops battled to regain control of a border town on Monday. The violence has killed 17 soldiers while 22 others remain missing. The AP has more, but notes that it remains unclear who exactly the Syrian militants are and what allegiances they hold.

In an effort to crackdown on the threat of homegrown terrorism, the Australian government today proposed legislation that would criminalize overseas travel to “terrorist hotbeds, such as Iraq and Syria.” The AP has the story.

Vox has a fascinating new map of every call President Obama has made to a foreign leader so far in 2014. Ukraine seems to have dominated the Administration’s bandwidth.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Ukrainian forces have made steady progress against pro-Russian separatists in recent days, but have avoided direct challenges to rebel strongholds in Donetsk and Luhansk. In the meantime, the government is providing humanitarian corridors for residents of the cities to flee to Ukrainian-held territory.

However, the Journal also notes that the fighting provided Russia with its own propaganda opportunity, as over 300 Ukrainian soldiers, under heavy fire, were forced to cross into Russian territory. Apparently, the soldiers abandoned their weapons before entering Russia. Russian television broadcast footage of a supposed Ukrainian soldier praising Russia for providing food and shelter, while Russian officials claimed that the troops had surrendered. Kiev stated that it is working to return its troops.

At the same time, the Times is reporting that Russia has doubled the number of battalions it has near the Ukrainian border, with between 19,000 and 21,000 troops stationed in the area. According to Western officials, the force is battle-ready, with infantry, armor, artillery, and air defense all stationed within a few miles of the border.

According to the LA Times, the build-up comes as Moscow launched a massive five-day air-force exercise along the border with Ukraine. The exercise is scheduled to include air-to-ground firing and missile tests. U.S. officials said they were “deeply concerned” by the operation, calling it “provocative” and suggesting it would “only serve to escalate tensions,” the LA Times reports.

In Europe, Berlin prevented a German company from completing construction of a military training center in Russia. The ban goes beyond existing EU sanctions, and politicians suggested the decision aimed to persuade the French to cancel the sale and delivery of two warships to Moscow. The Wall Street Journal has more.

Reuters reports that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has threatened to respond to EU sanctions by potentially banning the overflight privileges of European airlines in route to Asia.

As militia violence continues to rage, Libya’s new Parliament convened its first session yesterday in Tobruk, a relatively calm port city. According to the Times, one Libyan lawmaker declared, “We will prove to the world that Libya is not a failed country.”

Al-Monitor reports that Turkey is working to improve relations with the U.S. by hiring new lobbying and public affairs groups.

The AP reports that at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this weekend, the U.S. plans to propose steps that would ease tensions in the South China Sea. However, the National Interest argues that in twenty years, the Arctic Circle, not the South China Sea, will be the focus of China’s energy ambitions.

According to Al Jazeera, Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian military of war crimes due to violence toward civilians during operations against Boko Haram.

In response to a bomb threat made mid-air on a Qatar Airways plane, two British fighter jets escorted the civilian airliner into Manchester airport, which was shut down for 25 minutes. Reuters shares that British authorities have arrested one of the passengers “on suspicion of making a hoax bomb threat.”

Defense One reports that a number of former State Department and Pentagon officials are criticizing the Obama administration’s failure to delegate national security problems. They argue that “it is time to roll more power down to the professional diplomats, interagency professionals, and cabinet members closest to the front lines of any given issue.”

According to McClatchy, the Obama administration and the Senate Intelligence Committee are fighting over certain redactions from the Committee’s report on the CIA’s post-9/11 use of torture. The deletions apparently would affect the report’s “clarity and narrative flow.”

In anticipation of the release of the Intelligence Committee’s report, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) explained in a press conference why the U.S. should not be torturing terrorism suspects. The Huffington Post has their statements.

Meanwhile, following news that the CIA spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the agency’s use of torture, Eugene Robinson of the Post argues that President Obama needs to “tame” the CIA “monster.” U.S. News and World Report shares thoughts from former spies on the future of the agency.

Yesterday, in U.S. v. Al-Nashiri, Air Force Col. Vance Spath led proceedings as the case’s new judge. Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald reports that Col. Spath declined to step down following defense accusations of “potential bias.” Wells covered the proceedings for Lawfare yesterday. Remember to follow along on our “Events Coverage” page.

Josh Gerstein of Politico informs us that in a ruling in Al Odah v. U.S. on Sunday, the U.S. District Court for D.C. denied a Guantanamo prisoner’s request for an order that he be freed upon the end of America’s operations in Afghanistan. Gerstein notes, however, that the Court “suggested that U.S. officials have an ‘apparent’ legal duty to let such prisoners go when hostilities there conclude.” Taj Moore examines the opinion for Lawfare readers.

Wired analyzes the FBI’s new use of the “drive-by download” hacking method, known by the bureau as a “network investigative technique.”

The Post examines Google’s surveillance of users’ emails.

According to USA Today, President Obama will sign the veterans’ healthcare bill Thursday at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

CNN describes new underwater drones, which will enable humans to access much more of the world’s oceans.

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