The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2016
ICC: U.S. FORCES MAY HAVE COMMITTED WAR CRIMES IN AFGHANISTAN

U.S. armed forces and CIA personnel may have committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor said Monday in a report, raising the possibility that U.S. citizens could be indicted even though Washington has not joined the global court. With the announcement, the prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, signaled that a full investigation was likely, though that would have to be approved by judges, and it is unlikely that the United States would cooperate.
 
Bensouda said in the report there was a “reasonable basis” for her to open investigations into “war crimes of torture and related ill-treatment, by U.S. military forces deployed to Afghanistan and in secret detention facilities operated by the CIA.” The focus, she said, would be mostly on any crimes that occurred in 2003 and 2004. Court watchers suggested such language signals the prosecutor is ready to seek its permission to proceed to an investigation in a matter of days or weeks. New York Times, Guardian, Time
3 OF 9 TWIN CITIES MEN SENTENCED IN ISIS CONSPIRACY CASE
A federal judge in Minneapolis handed down sentences on Monday to three of the nine Twin Cities men who pleaded guilty or were convicted for their roles in the country’s largest ISIS conspiracy case. In the harshest decision issued Monday, U.S. District Judge Michael Davis sentenced Zacharia Abdurahman, 21, to 10 years in prison, short of the 15 years prosecutors had sought. Davis showed more leniency to defendants who testified against others in the conspiracy. He sentenced Abdirizak Warsame to 2.5 years in prison, and Abdullahi Yusuf, 20, who pleaded guilty and testified against his friends, to 20 years supervised release, in addition to the time he has already served behind bars. The remaining six men are set to be sentenced Tuesday and Wednesday. Minnesota Public Radio, CBS News
 
GIULIANI: DEFEATING ISIS WILL BE EARLY FOCUS FOR TRUMP
Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is reportedly a leading candidate for Secretary of State in the Trump administration, said Monday that President-elect Donald Trump would likely focus much of his initial foreign-policy strategy on destroying ISIS. Giuliani didn’t say, however, what specifically the Trump administration would do to combat ISIS. Trump has repeatedly said he wants to keep this strategy secret so that the terror network can’t prepare for it. Wall Street Journal
 
At an event on Monday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter pushed back against Trump’s criticism of the Pentagon for publicly detailing its intent to push into Mosul and Raqqa in order to defeat ISIS militants there. “There are secret tactics involved, but the fact that we’re going to Mosul and Raqqa is clear because they’re the two biggest cities,” Carter said at an event in Washington organized by The Atlantic magazine. “It’s actually important that the enemy know and that [ISIS] everywhere else know that we intend [to] and will destroy them.” Wall Street Journal
Related:
CNN: ‘Knife Fight’ as Trump Builds Unconventional National Security Cabinet
NBC New York: ISIS Magazine Calls NYC Thanksgiving Parade an ‘Excellent Target’
Just Security: The Case Against Serving in a Trump Administration
Just Security: Work for the Trump Administration? Yes, But Be Prepared.
NBC News: How Trump Can Gut Obama’s National Security Policies on Day One
 
FBI: ATTACKS ON MUSLIM AMERICANS FUEL HATE CRIME IN U.S.
The FBI said Monday that attacks against American Muslims surged last year, driving an overall increase in hate crime against all groups. Hate crimes in 2015 were up more than 6 percent over 2014, with a two-thirds increase in religiously motivated attacks against Muslims. NPR, New York Times, CNN
 
OBAMA BLAMES CONGRESS FOR NOT CLOSING GUANTANAMO
President Obama said Monday that that he has been unable to close the prison at Guantanamo because of “congressional restrictions.” He added that his administration will continue to transfer detainees to foreign countries in the coming weeks. President-elect Trump has said he would expand the population at Guantanamo. Wall Street Journal, Associated Press


KREMLIN: TRUMP AND PUTIN SPEAK ON PHONE, AGREE TO ‘MEND TIES’
President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President-elect Trump spoke by telephone for the first time on Monday, agreeing to review what both consider the poor state of relations between the two countries, according to a statement from the Kremlin. The two reportedly agreed that relations were “unsatisfactory” and vowed to work together to improve them. Moscow said the two men discussed combining efforts in the fight against terrorism, talked about “a settlement for the crisis in Syria,” and agreed that their aides would begin working on a face-to-face meeting between them. Washington Post, New York Times, BBC News
Related:
New Yorker: Is Putin’s Russia Ready for Trump’s America?
 

Afghanistan: In a blow to the country’s stalled peace process, Afghanistan’s president asked the United Nations on Monday to add the Taliban’s new leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, to its sanctions list. Reuters
 
Syria: A Russian jet crashed off the Syrian coast on Monday while trying to land on an aging aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean. New York Times
 
Yemen: The New York Times reports that the Saudi-led coalition is hitting civilian targets in Yemen, such as factories, bridges, and power stations, that have no clear link to Houthi rebels -- and that in the rubble, the remains of U.S.-made munitions are often found. New York Times
 
Yemen: Earlier this month, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the Al Omgy Brothers Money Exchange in Yemen for having financial dealings with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The brothers who run the bank say the militants gave them no choice. New York Times
 

Thailand: The trial of two Chinese ethnic Uighur men suspected of carrying out a deadly bomb attack in Bangkok in 2015 began today after three postponements, which were blamed on defense lawyers being unable to find suitable interpreters for their clients. Fourteen foreigners were among 20 people killed in the Aug. 17, 2015, bombing at Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine. Reuters
TOP OP-EDS
Trump’s most important new partner -- the intelligence community: “What role will facts and fact-bearers play in the Trump administration?” asks Michael Hayden in the Washington Post. “What happens when Trump is told that Syrian refugees are already extremely vetted? Or when his intel briefer dishes up that the Russians really aren’t targeting the Islamic State? What controls — new data or preexisting mythology? For many authoritarian populists (think the leaders of Turkey, Venezuela and Russia), it’s the latter.”
 
The way to stop Trump: “Much of what Trump has proposed is patently illegal,” writes David Cole in the New York Review of Books. “Torture violates the Constitution, international law, and the Geneva Conventions. Deporting or singling out Muslims for discriminatory treatment violates the freedom of religion. Congress cannot expand libel, whose contours are determined by the First Amendment….We live in a constitutional democracy, one that is expressly designed to check the impulses of dangerous men. It will do so if and only if we insist on it.”
 
ISIS’ perfect enemy: “In the aftermath of the election, ISIS supporters and other jihadists are gleefully celebrating Donald Trump’s victory,” writes Mara Revkin in Foreign Affairs. “From the perspective of jihadists, Trump is an ideal adversary.”
 
Learning from past counterterrorism eras: “The wave theory is a convenient way of differentiating various terrorism threats,” writes Daniel Byman in Lawfare. “We can also flip it on its head, asking, ‘What are the different counterterrorism waves?’ For each wave demanded a different response.”
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For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief:  One Year Since the Paris Attacks




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