The Soufan Group Morning Brief



The United States has found a vast amount of new intelligence about ISIS fighters who have traveled to fight in Syria and about those who have returned to their home countries. U.S.-backed Syria Kurdish and Arab fighters seized more than 10,000 documents and 4.5 terabytes of data during operations to retake the city of Manbij over the past few weeks. Located near the Turkish border, Manbij is a hub for ISIS fighters entering and leaving Syria and the newly discovered data could provide a clearer picture of foreign fighter flows, according to American officials. New York Times

Washington Post: As noose tightens around Mosul, U.S. forces begin advising Iraqi units closer to front lines

Resettled Guantanamo detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab reappeared in Venezuela on Wednesday after being missing for several weeks. Dhiab was transferred from the prison at Guantanamo Bay to Uruguay in 2014. He had last been seen in mid-July in a small city along the Uruguay-Brazil border. Washington Post, Guardian

Gitmo: The Periodic Review Board has decided against releasing 40-year-old Mohammad al Qahtani. The Saudi national was allegedly chosen to be the 20th hijacker in the 9/11 attacks. In its decision, the PRB wrote Qahtani’s “past involvement in terrorist activities, to include almost certainly having been selected by senior al-Qaida members to be the 20th hijacker for the 9/11 attacks and, after failing in that effort, returning to Afghanistan and fighting on the front lines against the Northern Alliance.” Miami Herald

ISIS: FBI Director James Comey warned on Wednesday that victory against ISIS overseas could lead to an increase in terror attacks in the West. Speaking at a cybersecurity conference at Fordham University, Comey said that “at some point there is going to be a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before,” and that “not all of the Islamic State killers are going to die on the battlefield.” New York Times

DNC hack: The National Security Agency likely has the unique capabilities to determine if Russia was behind the theft of Democratic National Committee emails, according to several experts. Former NSA Director Michael Hayden said that “private firms are really good at forensics, but the federal government has other tools.” Edward Snowden also said he believes the NSA has the ability to determine the source of the hacking incident. Politico

ISIS claimed responsibility on Wednesday for a suicide truck bomb blast that killed at least 48 people in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli near the Turkish border. The attack struck near a Kurdish security forces headquarters. Reuters, New York Times

Afghanistan: The Afghanistan affiliate of ISIS, known as IS-Khorasan or IS-K, is connected to the core group in Iraq and Syria, according to the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, said on Wednesday that “this franchise of Daesh is connected to the parent organization,” and that it has financial, strategic, and communications connections to the main group. The Hill

Turkey: On Wednesday, the Turkish government continued its crackdown against suspected followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, dismissing 1,700 military personnel and closing 131 media outlets. Reuters

Germany: On Wednesday, German police arrested a 19-year-old Algerian refugee who had run away from a psychiatric facility yelling “I’ll blow you up,” after authorities had evacuated a shopping center in Bremen. Police said the man had previously sympathized with ISIS and the gunman who killed nine people at a shopping center in Munich last Friday. Reuters, Deutsche Welle

Russia: The Russian military has strengthened its western flank as NATO begins to build its presence in Eastern Europe, deploying additional air defense systems and a “self-sufficient” group of troops in Crimea. State Department spokesman John Kirby said that the move runs “counter to ongoing efforts to stop violence and de-escalate the tensions in eastern Ukraine.” Reuters
What if a U.S.-Russian Deal in Syria Goes Exactly as Planned?: “A successful Joint Implementation Group (JIG) would likely weaken or eliminate a strong component of the insurgency without compensating for the lost capacity, further tilting the military balance in the regime’s favor,” writes Faysal Itani on War on the Rocks. “Unless the United States can prevent that, the JIG would make a lasting negotiated settlement in Syria more difficult than it already is, setting the stage for open-ended civil war and further radicalization.”

The right target for the U.S. in Syria: Hezbollah: “The military situation in Syria has turned against the U.S.-supported opposition over the past year, due mainly to Russian intervention. Now, the failed coup in Turkey and subsequent crackdown there stand to reduce the capabilities of a key U.S. ally,” writes Daniel Serwer in the Washington Post. “Without some rebalancing now in favor of the opposition to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, the prospects for a satisfactory negotiated political transition are dim.”

Islamic terror could drive Europe into the arms of the far-Right: “Intelligence officials have issued several stark warnings that Isil has actively sought to exploit the migrant crisis to set up a network of terror cells in Europe...Now it seems all of these warnings are being borne out, with all the implications that could have not only for European security, but for the continent’s future political stability,” writes Con Coughlin in the Telegraph. “As Europe faces disruption on a similar scale generated by a new generation of Islamist-inspired terrorists, its leaders must show similar resolve if they are not to fall into Isil’s trap of allowing the current wave of terror attacks to bring about a true European political crisis.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: A Diaspora of Terror

Out Now: Karen Greenberg's newest book, Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State, is the definitive account of how America's War on Terror sparked a decade-long assault on the rule of law, weakening our courts and our Constitution in the name of national security.

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