The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016
FBI DIRECTOR DEFENDS DEPARTMENT IN PROBE INTO NY BOMBING, ORLANDO SHOOTING SUSPECTS

Republican Senators questioned FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday about whether there was anything else his department could have done to prevent acts of extremist violence, such as the recent bombings in New York and New Jersey, the stabbing at a mall in Minnesota, and the Orlando nightclub massacre. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee questioned Comey about previous FBI probes into Orlando gunman Omar Mateen and New York bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami. Comey said he did not believe anything should have been done differently, nor that any red flags were missed. In his testimony, Comey also warned that “there will be a terrorist diaspora sometime in the next two to five years like we’ve never seen before,” as ISIS is defeated on the battlefield. AP, CBS, Wall Street Journal

Related:
The Hill: GOP senators hit FBI on early probe of NY bombing suspect
VOA: US, Europe Seen Staring at 'Sustained Vulnerability' to IS
Wall Street Journal: Transcripts Show ISIS Influence on Orlando Gunman

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TOP NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICIAL STEPS DOWN
The head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, John P. Carlin, is reportedly stepping down from his position next month. Carlin is reportedly leaving to pursue a job in the private sector. He is the youngest and longest-serving head of the National Security Division. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said of Carlin that “for the better part of two decades at the Department of Justice, John distinguished himself as a leader who skillfully used all the tools at his disposal to enhance our public safety and uphold our national security.” Washington Post, The Hill

Ambassador to Cuba: On Tuesday, President Obama nominated the first U.S. ambassador to Cuba in over 50 years. President Obama selected career foreign service officer Jeffrey DeLaurentis as the chief of mission for the United States in Havana, in an effort to further rebuild the U.S. relationship with Cuba before he leaves office. New York Times, Washington Post

Refugees: The United States has exceeded its goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees since last October, according to the State Department. The United States has resettled 12,500 Syrian refugees and plans to admit even more next year. The target goal is to admit 110,000 refugees from all countries in the next 12 months. Washington Post

California terror case: An Anaheim man was sentenced to 30 years in prison for conspiring and attempting to provide material support to ISIS, and for 26 counts of bank fraud. Nader Elhuzayel, 25, was one of two men convicted in June of attempting to travel to the Middle East to join ISIS. U.S. District Judge David O. Carter said Elhuzayel showed “no remorse, no repudiation of ISIL, only death and destruction,” and that his repeated calls for martyrdom made him “especially dangerous.” CBS, Guardian

Cyber hack: The FBI has reportedly asked to examine several Democratic Party staffers’ cell phones as part of an investigation into a possible hack. This comes shortly after Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said that 18 different states have asked for help in protecting against cyberattacks on their electronic voting systems. CNN


SYRIAN GOVERNMENT FORCES LAUNCH GROUND ATTACK IN ALEPPO
Syrian government forces attacked opposition-held positions in Aleppo on several fronts on Tuesday, as part of the ground assault to gain full control of the besieged city. More than 250,000 civilians are reportedly trapped within the city, where airstrikes and bombings have intensified since the latest U.S. and Russian-brokered ceasefire collapsed. Reuters

Related:
New York Times: The Children of Aleppo, Syria, Trapped in a Killing Zone
Al Jazeera: 'If we lose this generation, we lose Syria'

Iraq: The Pentagon said on Tuesday that a shell fired at an Iraqi air base last week where U.S. troops were stationed did not contain a chemical agent. A Pentagon spokesman said “definitive lab tests conclude: No mustard agent present in munitions fired at Qayyarah West AB Sept 20.” The Hill

Afghanistan: An attempt to fight corruption in Afghanistan by monitoring the financial assets of top Afghan officials has been a complete failure, according to U.S. auditors. Only one out of the 83 officials that had been monitored, president Ashraf Ghani, fully complied with financial disclosure laws, according to a report by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. New York Times


France: A prosecutor in Nice, France, said on Tuesday that authorities have thwarted several additional attacks in southern France since July’s attack on Nice’s seaside promenade. Prosecutor Jean-Michel Pretre said that “several cases have been passed on to the anti-terrorism prosecutor in Paris” regarding planned attacks on sporting events, schools, and religious sites in the French Riviera. Reuters

Germany: Garman police are stepping up security at Muslim institutions in Dresden after two bombs exploded at a mosque and at an international meeting center on Monday where an annual conference on Islam was taking place. No one was hurt by the explosions and there has been no claim of responsibility, but police believe that the “motive was xenophobic.” Reuters

Ukraine: A Dutch-led investigation has found that the surface-to-air missile that was used to shoot down a passenger aircraft over Ukraine two years ago was trucked in from Russia. Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine reportedly requested the missile system, and then returned it to Russia the same night after shooting down the place, killing all 298 aboard. New York Times
TOP OP-EDS
Don’t Defeat ISIS, Yet: “A military push to recapture Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and the rest of Nineveh Province from the Islamic State is expected soon. Unfortunately, even if the campaign is successful, the liberation of Mosul will not stabilize the country,” writes Ramzy Mardini in The New York Times. “Nor will conquest resolve the underlying conditions that originally fueled the extremist insurgency.”

From the Taliban Frying Pan to the Islamic State Fire: “When the Islamic State first popped up in Afghanistan, its fighters formed an uneasy alliance with the Taliban, based on a shared opposition to the U.S.-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani,” writes Heather Barr on Foreign Policy. However, “the Taliban and Islamic State have fundamentally different objectives. The Taliban consistently articulates goals that solely pertain to its quest to regain control of Afghanistan.”

What the candidates didn’t say about nukes: “The final segment of the Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump debate, vaguely titled ‘Securing America,’ focused in significant part on the nuclear threat. The discussion--directed largely by the candidates themselves--was substantive,” writes John Mecklin for Reuters. “And because both candidates have political reasons to continue to address the existential threat of nuclear weapons, the debate could serve as a much-needed starting point for elaborating on the topic during the remaining two presidential debates.”
EDITOR'S PICK

SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Paradox of Stemming Foreign Fighter Flows
 




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