The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 31, 2016
SENIOR ISIS LEADER BELIEVED DEAD IN SYRIA

ISIS reported that its senior strategist and spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani was killed in northern Syria on Tuesday. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said that al-Adnani was targeted by an American “precision strike” near the city of Al Bab on Tuesday night, but did not confirm his death, saying “we are still assessing the results of the strike.” Al-Adnani, 39, was a founding member of ISIS and was the group’s chief spokesman and propagandist. He helped produce videos of beheadings and massacres, but also played an important operational role, overseeing the group’s external operations division, which recruits new members from around the world and helps instigate, organize, and carry out attacks outside of Iraq and Syria. New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters

Related:
New York Times: Does Killing Terrorist Leaders Make Any Difference? Scholars Are Doubtful
New Yorker: Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the Voice of ISIS, Is Dead
CNN: Key ISIS deputy and spokesman killed in Aleppo, group says
The Hill: Pentagon confirms airstrike targeting ISIS spokesman
Slate: Crucial ISIS Leader Has Been Killed in Syria, Terror Group Says
Daily Beast: The ISIS Attack Dog Reported Dead
Business Insider: A top ISIS official's death could have major implications for the future of the group

APPEALS COURT REJECTS PRETRIAL GITMO HEARING BY USS COLE MASTERMIND
A U.S. appeals court refused to halt the Guantanamo Bay military commission trial of the alleged mastermind of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, who claimed the commission did not have the authority to hear his case. The court found that Abd al Rahim al Nashiri cannot challenge the military commission’s authority until after the trial concludes. Nashiri’s lawyers argued that military commissions only have authority over crimes committed during an armed conflict and claimed the United States was not engaged in hostilities with Al Qaeda at the time of the USS Cole attack. Judge Thomas Griffith, who rejected arguments that Nashiri’s case should be heard before the appeals court because he was tortured while in U.S. custody, said “Nashiri’s allegations regarding his treatment during detention, while deeply troubling, do not provide any reason to fear that he will not be given a fair hearing in the military commission.” Miami Herald, Reuters

Navy: The head of U.S. Central Command warned Iran that the U.S. will protect itself against Iranian actions in the Persian Gulf. CENTCOM Commander Gen. Joseph Votel said on Tuesday that “I think the big concern here is miscalculation...I am concerned about rogue commanders, rogue Iranian Quds force naval commanders who are operating in a provocative manner and are trying to test us.” The Hill, Washington Post

State Department: The State Department is offering up to a $3 million reward for information about an ISIS leader who underwent U.S.-backed training before joining the terrorist group. Gulmurod Khalimov, a suspected top ISIS recruiter, received training from U.S. special operations forces and elite Russian forces while serving as commander of a special operations police unit in Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry. The Hill

Gitmo: Resettled former Guantanamo detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab has been deported back to Uruguay from Venezuela, according to authorities. Dhiab had gone missing from Uruguay, where he was transferred after his release from Guantanamo, before turning up in Venezuela several weeks later. Miami Herald

Las Vegas: 24-year-old Bryce Matthew Cuellar is due to face a judge this week on terror threat and conspiracy charges after he posted an internet video saying he intended to shoot “satanists and homosexuals.” In a 15-minute YouTube video, Cuellar wore a military-style vest and held a sniper rifle and AR-15 assault-style weapon. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in state prison. NY Daily News, AP


TALIBAN APPOINT NEW MILITARY CHIEF
The Taliban have appointed Mullah Ibrahim Sadar, once a close ally with Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar, to serve as its military chief as the group attempts to gain more ground in Afghanistan. The move signals the Taliban’s commitment to the insurgency and its unwillingness to come to the negotiating table for peace talks with the Afghan government. AP

A new video of two Taliban hostages, American Caitlan Coleman and her husband, Canadian Joshua Boyle, emerged on Tuesday. The couple, who were kidnapped in 2012 and had not been seen since 2014, said their captors would kill them if the Afghan government does not stop executing militant prisoners. ABC

Somalia: Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a truck bomb in Mogadishu that killed at least 15 people on Tuesday. The bombing occurred in front of the popular SYL Hotel, close to the presidential palace. New York Times


Philippines: Fifteen Philippine soldiers have been killed and 12 others wounded this week in clashes with the Abu Sayyaf militant group, according to military officials. On Tuesday, the Philippine government announced plans to deploy thousands more soldiers to confront the ISIS-linked group’s stronghold in the south of the country. New York Times

India: The United States and India agreed to strengthen counterterrorism cooperation on Tuesday by expanding intelligence sharing about known or suspected extremists and terrorism threats. The announcement comes after the conclusion of the second U.S.-India strategic dialogue between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. AP

Kyrgyzstan: A suicide bomber blew himself up inside the Chinese Embassy compound in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday. The attacker rammed his vehicle into the gates of the embassy before detonating the car bomb about 160 feet into the compound, wounding three Kyrgyz staff members. New York Times
TOP OP-EDS
Is There Safety in Piety?: “At what point would I rather die? It has been about two months since the terrorist attack at the Holey Artisan Bakery that led to the deaths of 20 people in my hometown, Dhaka, Bangladesh. By all accounts, the city — at least the part of the city where the attack took place, and where I have lived for the last two decades — is irrevocably changed,” writes Tahmima Anam in The New York Times. “There are checkpoints all over the neighborhood; many restaurants and cafes have been shut down; foreigners are sending their families home and schools are yet to reopen. In the evening, the streets are quiet and sad.”

Vladimir Putin and the Shiite Axis: “Putin may think he can continue to successfully balance the Arab world’s rival Sunni and Shiite powers on one hand and Iran and Israel on the other, but the Middle East is volatile and unpredictable,” writes Anna Borshchevskaya on Foreign Policy. “Iranian officials’ cynicism that Putin will throw Tehran under the bus when it suits his short-term interests and anti-Russian sentiments among ordinary Iranians will continue to undercut long-term ties.”

The U.S.’s Syria policy rests on a treacherous fault line: “How can the United States build a firmer foundation for finishing the campaign against the Islamic State? Washington must help build governance for a post-Islamic State world,” writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post. “It should sponsor renewed peace talks between Turkey and the PKK. And it should make clear to all that the only durable future is a federalism that can give Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites, Turkmen and other minorities a sense of ownership and control in Syria and Iraq.”
EDITOR'S PICK

SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Islamic State Loses Its Loudest Voice




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