The Soufan Group Morning Brief



The Periodic Review Board decided on Friday against the release of Ghassan Abdallah al-Sharbi, a 41-year-old Saudi national who allegedly associated with two of the 9/11 hijackers while attending flight school in the U.S. and received bomb-making training from Al Qaeda. The board cited Sharbi’s “hostile behavior while in detention, including organizing confrontations between other detainees and the guard force,” and his “prior statements expressing support for attacking the United States, and the detainee’s refusal to discuss his plans for the future.” Sharbi has been held at Guantanamo since 2002 after he was captured in a raid on a terrorist safehouse in Pakistan. Of the 76 prisoners remaining at Guantanamo Bay, 32 have been approved for release. Miami Herald

The New York Police Department’s new counterterrorism team, known as Critical Response Command, has been training for a variety of “active shooter” situations over the last seven months. The heavily armed and armored unit, which was announced last year, is made up of 525 handpicked personnel who were selected after a screening process under police leadership. Chief James Waters, who leads the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau highlighted the importance of his unit’s work by saying that “it’s going to happen….Something like Orlando is going to happen.” New York Times

Cybersecurity: The Obama administration is weighing options on how to respond to political cyberattacks, such as the recent hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems. CIA Director John Brennan discussed the severity of the disclosure of stolen information to influence the U.S. election while speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on Friday. Without directly implicating Russia, Brennan said “when it is determined who is responsible for this...there will be discussions at the highest levels of government about what the right course of action will be. Obviously interference in the U.S. election process is a very, very serious matter.” New York Times

Over the weekend Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump disparaged and attacked Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of an American soldier killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq, who criticized Trump for his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Trump suggested that Ghazala Khan did not speak during her husband’s remarks at the Democratic National Convention because she was “not allowed” to as a Muslim woman. Trump added that the family had “no right” to question his familiarity with the U.S. Constitution. New York Times

Washington Post: Ghazala Khan: Trump criticized my silence. He knows nothing about true sacrifice.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a suicide truck bomb attack on a hotel compound in Kabul used by foreign contractors. One police officer was killed and four others were wounded in the attack on the heavily guarded Northgate Hotel compound. New York Times, Reuters

The Hill: US military downplays ISIS threat in Afghanistan

Syria: Syrian rebel fighters launched a major offensive on Sunday to retake government-held southwestern parts of Aleppo. Among the fighters were members of the recently renamed Jabhat Fatah al Sham, the former Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, and Ahrar al Sham. Reuters

U.S.-backed forces have retaken control of nearly 70 percent of the city of Manbij in northern Syria. The Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) have pushed back ISIS into the old quarter of Manbij over the last two days. Reuters

The Hill: Pentagon will strike rebranded Nusra Front after split from al Qaeda

Iraq: Iraqi forces secured the release of four hostages held by ISIS at an oil field northwest of Kirkuk on Sunday. The four attackers, believed to be wearing suicide vests, had stormed the Bai Hassan oil field facility taking cative four employees of the Iraqi North Oil Company. CNN

Russia: ISIS called on its followers to carry out jihad in Russia in an online propaganda video released on Sunday. In the video, a masked driver threatens Russia saying “Putin, we will come to Russia and will kill you at your homes...Oh Brothers, carry out jihad and kill and fight them.” Reuters

Belgium: On Saturday, Belgian police charged a man, identified as 33-year-old Nourredine H., with attempting to commit a terrorist attack and with participation in the activities of a terrorist organization. He was arrested on Friday during a series of house raids in Wallonia. Wall Street Journal

New York Times: Terrorism Scares Away the Tourists Europe Was Counting On

Turkey: The Pentagon is attempting to improve ties with Turkey after CENTCOM commander Joseph Votel suggested that the recent failed coup in Turkey could disrupt the U.S. relationship with its NATO partner. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook attempted to downplay General Votel’s remarks in an effort to make “sure that our operations against ISIL are not impacted.” Washington Post
The Islamic State Threat to the Middle East: “Politicians and analysts in Europe and the United States understandably focus on the threat the Islamic State poses to the West, and the debate is fierce over whether the group’s recent attacks are a desperate gasp of a declining organization or proof of its growing menace,” writes Daniel Byman on Lawfare. “Such a focus, however, obscures the far greater threat the Islamic State poses to the Middle East and U.S. interests in the region. This threat can be divided into three categories – conquest, expansion, and agitation – all of which have profound implications for U.S. policy and should shape the U.S. role in the Middle East even if terrorism in the West declines.”

The U.S. steps back from the world stage, and the consensus for leadership dissolves: “The dire results of President Obama’s experiment in downsizing U.S. leadership are obvious overseas, but there’s a damaging consequence at home that gets less attention: The mistake builds on itself. It is the opposite of self-correcting,” writes Fred Hiatt in the Washington Post. “As the United States withdraws from the world, in other words, the world grows messier and uglier — and that only confirms for many Americans that any involvement is foolish and futile.”

France’s War Against the Islamic State Is Not in Syria: “Figuring out why France tops the charts in jihadi attacks and what’s to be done about it requires expertise (of which the French have plenty) and the flexibility to adopt and implement policy rethinks (which they woefully lack),” writes Leela Jacinto on Foreign Policy. “Here’s a good place to start: The one argument the Islamic State propaganda machine puts out time and again when exhorting supporters to target France is Paris’s muscular military interventions in Muslim lands.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Iran’s Most Powerful Proxy

Call for Applicants: The Center on the Future of War at Arizona State University is seeking a full-time Research Fellow. This position offers opportunities for the fellow to pursue individual policy research while also contributing to collaborative projects with the institution. CV and Cover Letter must be submitted by August 15, 2016. For a full description of the position, click here.

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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