The Soufan Group Morning Brief



Guantanamo detainee and author Mohamedou Ould Slahi was transferred to his native Mauritania in West Africa on Monday. He is best known for authoring the bestselling memoir “Guantánamo Diary,” about his experience at the military prison. Slahi, 45, arrived at Guantanamo in August 2002 and was subject to some of the worst interrogation techniques used at the prison, including beatings, sleep deprivation, being packed in ice, and being threatened with the arrest of his mother. He had spent more than a decade in segregation in a special detention site called Camp Echo, separate from nearly all of the other prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. He was never charged with a crime. His ACLU attorney, Hina Shamsi, said that Slahi “plans to write and work, establish a charity and care for his family,” in Mauritania. Miami Herald, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, NBC, Reuters

More Gitmo:
On Monday, the Periodic Review Board at Guantanamo Bay approved the release of former Afghan money changer Haji Wali Muhammad, who was suspected of handling funds for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. The review board determined that Muhammad’s “business connections and associations with Al Qaeda and the Taliban pre-date 9/11 and appear to have ended.” The review board also deemed Pakistani native Mohammed Ahmed Rabbani too dangerous to release, making him the 25th “forever prisoner” at Guantanamo. The board said Rabbani helped arrange travel and manage finances for 9/11 attacks suspects Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abd al Rahim al Nashiri. Of the 60 prisoners remaining at Guantanamo Bay, 20 have been cleared for release. Miami Herald

CNN: 'Guantanamo Diary' author Mohamedou Slahi freed
VICE News: Finally free: The author of a best-selling memoir about his detention and torture at Guantanamo has been released
The Hill: Transfer leaves 60 detainees in Guantánamo

Retired Marine Corps General James E. Cartwright, who served as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the Obama administration, pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to making false statements to the FBI during an investigation into leaks of classified information about Iran’s nuclear program. Cartwright was questioned by the FBI in 2012 about information he provided for a book written by New York Times reporter David Sanger, which revealed details of a malicious computer software program known as “Stuxnet” designed to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. Under the plea deal, the punishment could range from a $500 fine to six months in prison. New York Times, Reuters, Wall Street Journal

Terror case in Houston: An Iraqi refugee who allegedly planned to set off bombs at two Houston malls pleaded guilty on Monday to attempting to provide material support or resources to ISIS. As part of the plea deal, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan admitted that he pledged loyalty to ISIS in November 2014 and trained to use tactical weapons, including an AK-47. He faced up to 20 years in prison. Al Hardan came to Houston from Iraq in 2009 and beginning in June 2014, developed a relationship with a confidential informant about his plans to travel overseas to fight with ISIS and carry out attacks in the United States. CBS

ISIS strategy: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford convened military leaders from nearly 50 countries for a conference about the fight against ISIS, specifically the aftermath of battles to retake ISIS strongholds Mosul and Raqqa. Dunford said military leaders need to think about the “second and third order effects” of defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria and that “the military-to-military foundation ... can help inform a broader effort of counterextremism.” The Hill

Russian and and Syrian forces will halt their bombardment of Aleppo for eight hours on Thursday to allow civilians and rebels to leave the city, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday. However, Russia ruled out a longer-term ceasefire that Western governments have been demanding. Russia argues that a ceasefire would give Islamist rebels an opportunity to regroup. Reuters

Washington Post: Russian air defense raises stakes of U.S. confrontation in Syria

Iraq: On Tuesday, Iraqi and Kurdish forces advancing on Mosul said they had secured around 20 villages on the outskirts of the city. The Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces began moving toward Mosul at dawn on Monday under air cover from the U.S.-led military coalition. Reuters, New York Times

New York Times: Battle for Mosul Tests Obama Strategy to Shift Fight’s Burden From U.S.
Washington Post: How U.S. and Western troops will help in the battle for Mosul
CTC: Unseating the Caliphate: Contrasting the Challenges of Liberating Fallujah and Mosul

Yemen: On Monday, the Pentagon said it was not certain whether the USS Mason was targeted for a second time by missiles fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen over the weekend. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said that a review was underway about the incident saying, “we are still assessing the situation. There are still some aspects to this that we are trying to clarify for ourselves given the threat - the potential threat - to our people.” Reuters

United Kingdom: On Monday, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a special British court that handles complaints related to British intelligence agencies, found that several agencies broke privacy rules by collecting large amounts of UK citizens’ data without proper oversight. The ruling also said some of the data collection did not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Intercept, BBC
What happens after ISIS loses Mosul?: “But before anyone breaks out the champagne, even a victory in Mosul will not solve what ails much of the Middle East, because ISIS is not the fundamental problem; it is instead a symptom of larger, more intractable, problems,” writes Peter Bergen on CNN. “Until there is genuine political accommodation between the Shia and Sunnis in Iraq and, down the road, in the even more complicated case of Syria, a son of ISIS will surely arise because Sunni militant groups like ISIS will continue to claim that they alone can really stand up to the Shia-led governments in Baghdad and Damascus.”

The way forward for India and Pakistan over Kashmir: “The danger of war between the India and Pakistan is prompted primarily by the threat of terrorism and militants. Islamabad needs to quell this by dealing with all its militants — not just the domestic ones who attack the country’s army,” writes Ahmed Rashid in the Financial Times. “India should respond positively to any such Pakistani gesture, and engage in talks with its Kashmiris. This is the first Indian government to refuse dialogue with its Kashmiri population.”

Mosul and Aleppo Are Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing: “Militarily, the fall of Aleppo could be a turning point. It would allow the Assad regime to move toward closing off a corridor connecting the city with Latakia and Idlib, which would mean the end of the rebellion’s existence as a movement in control of significant territory in northwest Syria,” writes Emile Simpson on Foreign Policy. “That said, even if the Assad regime were to retake the northwest, the bitter grievances that have animated the rebellion by the mostly Sunni elements of the population there won’t evaporate overnight. The regime would have to pacify the area in an unforgiving counter-insurgency campaign for years to come.”

Mosul Is Going to Embrace the United States as Liberator: “There is now an unprecedented opportunity to work with Moslawis to stabilize their city. When Saddam Hussein fell, the population rebelled after the United States invaded Mosul and wiped away the old certainties of Baathist life,” writes Michael Knights on Foreign Policy. “But this time, Iraqi Army-led forces are fighting to remove a medieval dictatorship that has terrorized Mosul for the last two-and-a-half years. With the proper arrangements in place, therefore, Moslawis will be greeting the Iraqi security forces as liberators for the first time.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: A Battle Much Larger Than the Islamic State

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