The Soufan Group Morning Brief



The leader of the ISIS affiliate that operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan was killed in a U.S. drone strike on July 26 in eastern Afghanistan, the Pentagon said on Friday. Hafiz Saeed Khan was killed as part of an operation by American and Afghan forces against the group in Nangarhar Province. Khan had been a former member of the Pakistani Taliban and was the commander of ISIS in the Khorasan, an ancient name for the region that includes Afghanistan and Pakistan. New York Times, Washington Post, NBC

Suspects convicted of attempting to provide support to ISIS have been sentenced to an average of 15 years in federal prison, the higher end of their potential sentencing ranges, according to a report released Friday by Minnesota prosecutors. U.S. District Judge Michael Davis ordered government prosecutors to “continually update” their list of sentencing data in order to make a decision in sentencing nine Minnesota men who allegedly conspired to join ISIS overseas. Karen J. Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law, told the Minnesota Star-Tribune that Judge Davis “is in a position to really make some sense and give some nuance in how we think about terrorism trials and their outcomes.” AP, Minn. Star-Tribune

Gitmo: On Friday, a U.S. appeals court threw out a former Guantanamo detainee’s lawsuit that claimed he had been tortured after he was taken into U.S. custody when he was 15 years old. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously ruled against Mohammed Jawad, citing a 2006 law that prevents him from suing for damages in U.S. courts. Reuters

DNC Hack: A hacker believed to be linked to Russian intelligence services released another set of internal Democratic Party documents on Friday. The hacker, known by the name Guccifer 2.0, released documents that included the personal cell phone numbers and email addresses of nearly 200 lawmakers. New York Times

Thousands of displaced residents returned to the city of Manbij in northern Syria on Saturday after U.S.-backed fighters liberated the city from ISIS. The U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Friday that they had seized full control of Manbij, which lies in a strategic location along the Turkish border. New York Times, Reuters

Syria: Fighting in Aleppo killed dozens of civilians over the weekend after government and Russian airstrikes and artillery targeted opposition and rebel-held neighborhoods in and around the city. At least 46 civilians were killed in the strikes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. New York Times

Nigeria: Boko Haram released a video on Sunday purporting to show the bodies of several kidnapped schoolgirls. The militant group claims the girls were killed by Nigerian government airstrikes. New York Times

Yemen: Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed at least 19 people, mostly children, on Saturday in a residential area in the village of Birken in northern Yemen. Other strikes reportedly killed about 40 Al Qaeda fighters on Sunday in eastern Yemen. New York Times, Reuters

Russia: Russia has deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system to the Crimean Peninsula as tensions escalate in the region. The S-400 missile system would be able to target aircraft up to 150 miles away, far into Ukrainian airspace. Washington Post

Switzerland: A man armed with a knife and flammable liquid killed one woman and wounded five other people in an attack on a train near St. Gallen, Switzerland, on Sunday. The 27-year-old suspect was killed by police. Investigators said they had found no indication terrorism was a motive. Reuters, AP
How to End the Stigma of Guantánamo: “All sides can agree that it is in the national interest that ex-detainees reintegrate into society. One step to ease that path would be to make public more information about what the government thinks they actually did—and did not do,” writes Charlie Savage in The New York Times. “The government has an archive of secret reports by a six-agency task force that reviewed the cases of the 242 detainees who remained at the prison when President Obama took office in 2009. The panel recommended transferring about 150 of those men, and officials familiar with its work say it called into question whether most had committed ‘terrorist’ activities in a meaningful sense.”

Partnering with Iran to Counter ISIS?: “Iran’s strategy against ISIS is similar to that pursued by the United States. Tehran wants to eliminate ISIS in Iraq and push it back in Syria, while ensuring that both countries preserve their territorial integrity; destroy ISIS’ capacity to launch terrorist attacks outside of its territories; undermine its appeal to local and foreign fighters; and stop it from spilling into neighboring Afghanistan,” write Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary on Lawfare. “To achieve these goals, Iran has undertaken a number of counterterrorism efforts. While some complement US efforts, others go against them.”

The challenge in Mosul won’t be to defeat the Islamic State. It will be what comes after: “The most significant challenge in Mosul will not be to defeat the Islamic State; rather, it will be the task we faced there in 2003: to ensure post-conflict security, reconstruction and, above all, governance that is representative of and responsive to the people,” writes David Petraeus in the Washington Post. “All of this will have to be pursued largely by Iraqis, of different allegiances, without the kinds of forces, resources and authorities that we had.”

End the First-Use Policy for Nuclear Weapons: “President Obama has an opportunity to further delegitimize nuclear weapons by adopting no-first-use as a core principle of United States security policy on the grounds that first-use is unnecessary and a threat to national survival and humanity itself. We could still maintain a robust nuclear umbrella to protect ourselves and our allies,” write James Cartwright and Bruce Blair in The New York Times. “Although a no-first-use policy would limit the president’s discretion by imposing procedural and physical constraints on his or her ability to initiate the use of nuclear weapons, we believe such checks on the commander in chief would serve the national interest.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrie
f: A New Chapter for Turkey and Russia

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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