The Soufan Group Morning Brief


The Soufan Group Morning Brief, May 31, 2017
WEDNESDAY, MAY 31, 2017
HUGE BOMB IN CENTRAL KABUL KILLS AT LEAST 80 PEOPLE

A truck bomb detonated in the heart of Kabul diplomatic quarter early Wednesday, killing at least 80 people and wounding hundreds more. The Interior Ministry said the blast was triggered by a huge quantity of explosives hidden in a tanker truck that went off during the peak of the morning rush hour. It struck near the entrance of a central area of Kabul known as the Green Zone, which houses the U.S.’s military headquarters and embassy. The German Embassy was among the buildings closest to the blast.
 
Even by the standards of war-torn Kabul, this blast stood apart for its sheer magnitude, blowing out windows up to a mile away and setting dozens of cars in the area ablaze. The German, Chinese, and French embassies were all reportedly damaged. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Washington Post, New York Times, BBC News, Wall Street Journal
 
TRUMP INTERVIEWS TWO MORE FBI DIRECTOR CANDIDATES
President Trump interviewed two more candidates for FBI Director on Tuesday, meeting with Christopher Wray, a former assistant attorney general overseeing the Justice Department’s criminal division under President George W. Bush, and with John Pistole, a former deputy FBI director who was later made director of the Transportation Security Administration under President Obama. New York Times, Washington Post
 
PENTAGON’S MISSILE DEFENSE PROGRAM SCORES A WIN
The Pentagon announced Tuesday that a re-engineered American interceptor rocket collided with a mock intercontinental ballistic missile in the skies over the Pacific Ocean -- the first successful test of whether it could shoot down a warhead from North Korea racing toward the continental United States at speeds approaching true battle conditions. Vice Adm. Jim Syring, director of the Pentagon agency in charge of developing the missile defense system, called Tuesday’s test result “an incredible accomplishment” and a critical milestone for a program hampered by setbacks over the years. New York Times, Associated Press, Los Angeles Times
 
TSARNAEVS, MANCHESTER SUSPECT HAVE CHILLING SIMILARITIES
Like the two brothers responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings, the suicide bomber in the Manchester Arena terror attack, Salman Abedi, was a son of refugees who made a brief visit to his parents’ homeland and returned with extreme Islamic views, reports the Boston Globe. He was once known as a pot-smoking party-goer, like the two Tsarnaev brothers responsible for Boston’s mayhem. As with the Tsarnaev brothers, authorities are questioning whether intelligence officials missed signs of the Manchester bomber’s radicalization. The striking parallel between the two deadly episodes is “the going abroad and getting access’’ to a terrorist philosophy, said Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University School of Law. “You come back trained, and with an ideological commitment that we want to prevent.” Boston Globe
 
Trump’s cellphone diplomacy: President Trump has reportedly been handing out his cellphone number to world leaders and urging them to call him directly, an unusual invitation that breaks diplomatic protocol and is raising concerns about the security and secrecy of the U.S. commander in chief’s communications. Washington Post
 

TROOPS IN PHILIPPINES BATTLE GROWING ISIS-LINKED THREAT
The Philippines military conducted airstrikes Tuesday in an effort to regain control of the southern city of Marawi, which was overrun last week by an Islamist group affiliated with ISIS. Thousands of residents have fled, and dozens of fighters have been killed, as fighting has convulsed the city of 200,000. The situation on the ground is said to be so tense that civilians are reportedly being asked by the government to wear white to distinguish themselves from combatants. Reuters reports that dozens of foreign jihadis have fought side-by-side with ISIS sympathizers against security forces, evidence that the restive region is fast becoming an Asian hub for the ultra-radical group. Reuters, Fox News, Associated Press, New York Times
 

Foiled bomb plot in Germany: A 17-year-old asylum-seeker has been detained by German police after concerns were raised that he was planning a suicide attack in Berlin. NBC News, Independent
TOP OP-EDS
Why the Supreme Court should take the two new Guantanamo military commission appeals: “Fifteen years into the military commission experiment, over 10 years after the enactment of the Military Commissions Act (MCA), and almost nine since the commissions’ first convictions, the time has long-since passed for the Supreme Court to settle the validity of the commissions’ jurisdiction,” writes Steve Vladek in JustSecurity.
 
The online radicalization we’re not talking about: “When you hear the word radicalization, what usually comes to mind is young people turning to Islamic fundamentalism,” write Alice Marwick and Becca Lewis in New York magazine. “But the far right is doing virtually the same thing — and possibly even more effectively. In fact, a recent study shows that white-supremacist Twitter accounts have increased more than 600 percent since 2012, and outperform ISIS accounts by every possible metric.”
 
Should the president’s words matter in court? “What weight, if any, should the words of a United States president have in court?” asks Kate Shaw in the New York Times. “It’s not a question the Supreme Court has ever answered. But if the Trump administration asks the court to hear the travel ban case, and the court agrees to do so, the outcome will almost certainly turn on this issue.”
 
Smartest way to deal with Russia? Ignore Putin. What if the U.S. “ignored Putin’s self-serving vision of Russia as a conservative, Orthodox bulwark against Western rot and Islamism as a flimsy propaganda construct, and saw the country, ultimately, as part of the Western civilization”? asks Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg View.  
EDITOR'S PICK

EVENTS
The Future of Cybersecurity
Celebrating the Launch of the Fordham Center for Cybersecurity
Thursday, June 1
5:30-8:30PM
McNally Amphitheatre
140 West 62nd Street
Register
 
SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief.




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