Eye on Extremism: February 1, 2019

NBC News: ISIS Could Reclaim Territory In Months Without Military Pressure, Warns Pentagon In Draft Report

“A draft Pentagon report warns that without continued pressure, ISIS could regain territory in six to 12 months, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the draft. The finding is in a draft of the Department of Defense Inspector General Quarterly Report about Operation Inherent Resolve that is expected to be released early next week. The report draws on information from the U.S. military, U.S. government agencies, and open source reports. The draft says ISIS is intent on reconstituting a physical caliphate and that with ungoverned spaces in Syria and no military pressure, the terror group could retake land in a matter of months, according to the officials familiar with the report. The report covers the three months from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018. President Donald Trump announced in mid-December that the U.S. military would be leaving Syria.”

The New York Times: 29 Syrian Children Die During Freezing Escape From The Islamic State

“As families have made the long, frozen, sometimes barefoot trek out of the last shards of Islamic State territory to a refugee camp in northeastern Syria over the past two months, at least 29 children and infants among them have died before reaching help, mainly from hypothermia, the World Health Organization said on Thursday. At least 18 of them died over the past week, it said, a toll that added to the hundreds of thousands killed over the course of Syria’s civil war, now approaching its eighth year. Millions of people have been displaced, and thousands continue to flee the violence, across distances full of their own dangers. About 23,000 people have arrived at a refugee camp in the Hasakah region of Syria over the last eight weeks, mostly women and children fleeing the battle to oust the Islamic State from nearby Deir al-Zour province, the W.H.O. said. Almost a third of the displaced people are younger than 5, it said. Their numbers have tripled the Al Hol camp’s population, severely overstretching its resources. Shortages are everywhere — of tents, latrines, medical care and sanitation facilities — leaving thousands of people who have already endured years living under Islamic State rule and a miserable march to the camp to spend several nights there without any shelter or even blankets.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iraq Fortifies Syrian Border To Keep Out Islamic State Militants

“As U.S.-backed forces close in on Islamic State’s last territory in Syria, some militants are fleeing to Iraq—using longstanding smuggling networks and posing as nomadic shepherds to slip through the border, according to Iraqi officials. Iraq has rushed to reinforce its Syrian frontier amid concerns that Islamic State members will regroup here and threaten the country’s security, military officials said. In recent weeks, the officials said, Baghdad—which fought a yearslong, devastating war to oust Islamic State from Iraq—has sent more troops to the border and used artillery and war planes to strike Islamic State fighters inside Syrian territory. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said Tuesday all necessary measures had been taken to prevent any infiltration and that the border was secure. But military officials say the need for vigilance remains. Islamic State at its height controlled territory across parts of Syria and Iraq, but U.S. defense officials estimate it is now down to roughly 1½ square miles in eastern Syria, around 6 miles from the Iraqi border. Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan said Tuesday Islamic State’s grip on the remaining territory could be fully broken within two weeks, after months of heavy fighting.”

The Washington Post: US Warns Lebanon’s Hezbollah Not To Funnel Ministry’s Money

“A senior U.S. official has warned Lebanon’s Hezbollah against exploiting the position of the Health Ministry to funnel funds to institutions affiliated with the Shiite militant group. The remarks by Marshall Billingslea, the U.S. Treasury’s assistant secretary on terror financing, came as Lebanese political factions agreed on Thursday to form a new government. The development broke a nine-month deadlock that deepened Lebanon’s economic woes. Billingslea spoke to local journalists at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Hezbollah has three seats in Lebanon’s new Cabinet, including the Health Ministry. The English-language Daily Star quoted Billingslea as saying that “if we see that Hezbollah exploits” ministries to funnel money and “other terrorist agendas, then we have significant problems.” He declined to elaborate what the U.S. Treasury would do in that case.”

The Wall Street Journal: On Brink Of Arms Treaty Exit, U.S. Finds More Offending Russian Missiles

“Russia has expanded its deployment of a missile system the U.S. says violates a 1987 treaty on intermediate-range nuclear forces, widening the differences with Washington over a pact the U.S. is expected to exit on Saturday, Western officials said. The U.S. recently informed Western allies that Russia now has deployed four battalions of the 9M729 cruise missile, an increase from the three battalions Russia was said to have a few months ago, according to a senior Western official who is familiar with U.S. intelligence reports. All told, Russia is said to have nearly 100 of the missiles, including spares, the official said. The development comes as the State Department is expected to announce Friday the U.S. will suspend its obligations under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty on Saturday and begin the process to formally withdraw from it.”

CBS News: Intel Chiefs Assess Risks From ISIS, North Korea: CEP President Fran Townsend Discusses The Worldwide Threat Assessment Presented In Testimony To Congress And The Importance Of The Relationship Between The President And The Intelligence Community.

United States

The New York Times: Senate Rebukes Trump Over Troop Withdrawals From Syria And Afghanistan

“The Senate, in a bipartisan rebuke to President Trump’s foreign policy, voted overwhelmingly to advance legislation drafted by the majority leader to express strong opposition to the president’s withdrawal of United States military forces from Syria and Afghanistan. The 68-to-23 vote to cut off debate ensures that the amendment, written by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and backed by virtually every Senate Republican, will be added to a broader bipartisan Middle East policy bill expected to easily pass the Senate next week. The vote was the second time in two months that a Republican-led Senate had rebuked Mr. Trump on foreign policy. In December, 56 senators voted to end American military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen in what was the strongest show of bipartisan defiance against Mr. Trump’s defense of the kingdom over the killing of a dissident journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. This time, the vote was even more lopsided. Mr. Trump’s declaration of victory over the Islamic State provoked a swift backlash on Capitol Hill in December when he ordered that the United States pull 2,000 troops from Syria and 7,000 from Afghanistan.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: ‘Pro-White’ Rally At Stone Mountain Collapses Amid Internal Strife

“A Saturday rally at Stone Mountain by small group of white supremacists and white nationalists seeking to grab media attention during Super Bowl weekend has collapsed amid apparent infighting and fears for their personal safety. “The event was undermined by people who were supposed to be on my side,” said John Michael Estes, a white supremacist and one of the main organizers of the rally. “All I can say is short of me showing up by myself, there is no hope of an event.” Estes, a Hapeville resident who associates with neo-Nazi and other far-right movements, made his comments on a Facebook video Wednesday evening. Estes claimed the event, dubbed Rock Stone Mountain II, had “a lot of support” and blamed “rats and operatives and undercover informants” for the collapse. “There were some key people that offered to help but all they did was stir the bucket and get things riled up and didn’t really help they undermined the gears and pulled wires out,” he said. “Here I am, I stand alone.”

Michigan Live: Michigan Men Accused Of Trying To Join ISIS To Be Held Pending Trial

“Three Lansing men accused of trying to join ISIS will await trial in federal custody after a judge ruled they could pose a potential danger to the community. Muse Abdikadir Muse, Mohamed Salat Haji and Mohamud Abdikadir Muse all were ordered to remain in custody Thursday, Jan. 31 following a detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. “They express not only an interest in fighting for ISIS but a willingness to die,” Magistrate Judge Phillip Green said. Attorneys for the three men claimed they were set up and encouraged by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents to get “deeper and deeper” into ISIS ideology. Evidence against the three men largely surrounds Facebook posts and private messaging obtained through search warrants. They were arrested Jan. 21 at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport after Muse Muse, 20, prepared to board a flight headed to Somalia. FBI agents said he planned to join the Islamic State militant group there. Richard Zambon, attorney for Mohamud Muse, argued that most of the evidence against the three men involved Facebook messaging between themselves, except for the $1,200 they took from an FBI undercover agent to help cover the plane ticket.”

Conservative Review: It’s Time To Designate The Mexican Cartels As Terrorist Organizations

“Imagine for a moment that groups of Islamic terrorists set up shop at our border, killed tens of thousands of Mexicans, mutilated bodies, controlled a flow of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants every year over our border, and flooded our country with drugs and gangs. These organizations, in our “hypothetical,” operate in over 40 countries, are flush with weapons, money, and military-style tactics, control operations inside our country, and bring in drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil that are essentially chemical weapons. Try to picture the reaction of our government under that circumstance. Now look at the reality. All of this is happening at our border and in our communities, with one exception. The perpetrators are not Islamic terrorists. It’s time for Trump to designate the Mexican cartels, such as Sinaloa, Zetas, Juarez, Jalisco, Gulf, La Familia Michoacán (LFM), and Los Guerreros Unidos (LGU), as foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs). Although many of these groups have already been designated as Transnational Criminal Organizations, we will not be able to defend our national integrity and security with the tools we have, such as special operations strikes, until they are designated as terrorists.”

The Guardian: Revealed: FBI Investigated Civil Rights Group As 'Terrorism' Threat And Viewed KKK As Victims

“The FBI opened a “domestic terrorism” investigation into a civil rights group in California, labeling the activists “extremists” after they protested against neo-Nazis in 2016, new documents reveal. Federal authorities ran a surveillance operation on By Any Means Necessary (Bamn), spying on the leftist group’s movements in an inquiry that came after one of Bamn’s members was stabbed at the white supremacist rally, according to documents obtained by the Guardian. The FBI’s Bamn files reveal: The FBI investigated Bamn for potential “conspiracy” against the “rights” of the “Ku Klux Klan” and white supremacists. The FBI considered the KKK as victims and the leftist protesters as potential terror threats, and downplayed the threats of the Klan, writing: “The KKK consisted of members that some perceived to be supportive of a white supremacist agenda.” The FBI’s monitoring included in-person surveillance, and the agency cited Bamn’s advocacy against “rape and sexual assault” and “police brutality” as evidence in the terrorism inquiry. The FBI’s 46-page report on Bamn, obtained by the government transparency non-profit Property of the People through a records request, presented an “astonishing” description of the KKK, said Mike German, a former FBI agent and far-right expert who reviewed the documents for the Guardian.”

Syria

The Washington Post: Syria Ordered To Pay $302 Million For ‘Targeted Murder’ Of Journalist Marie Colvin

“A U.S. court Wednesday ordered the Syrian government to pay $302 million in damages for what a judge called the “targeted murder” of American war correspondent Marie Colvin in a 2012 artillery strike by Syrian forces on a media post. Colvin, who was 56, was renowned for her reporting in war zones and recognizable for the black eye patch she wore after losing an eye in a grenade blast in Sri Lanka. Her life covering conflicts worldwide was the subject last year of a biography and the feature film “A Private War. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson granted the judgment against Syria in a 2016 civil case brought by Colvin’s sister and the sister’s children. The nation did not respond in court to the lawsuit and a media contact provided Thursday by Syria’s United Nations mission did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. In a 36-page ruling, Jackson called the extrajudicial killing of a journalist “unconscionable.” “By perpetrating a directed attack against the Media Center, Syria intended to intimidate journalists, inhibit newsgathering and the dissemination of information, and suppress dissent,” Jackson wrote.”

Global News: Al-Qaida-Linked Group Growing In Syria, Expert Warns Of ‘Devastatingly Bloody’ Outcome

“It only took a few days for al-Qaida-linked militants to seize more than two dozen towns and villages in northern Syria from rival insurgents earlier this month, cementing their control over an area the size of neighbouring Lebanon. The advance by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or the Levant Liberation Committee, was the most serious blow yet to a September cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey that averted a major government offensive in Idlib province, the last main stronghold of the Syrian opposition. It highlighted the growing threat posed by al-Qaida at a time when its rival, the Islamic State group, is on the verge of defeat and the U.S. is preparing to withdraw its 2,000 troops from Syria. Although HTS has formally severed ties with al-Qaida, experts say it is still closely linked to the global network founded by Osama bin Laden and could use its base in Syria to launch attacks in the West.”

Middle East Monitor: Gargash: We Reject Establishment Of Buffer Zone In Syria

“UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, expressed his country’s objection to the creation of a buffer zone in Syria, while he refused to express his opinion on the US withdrawal from Syria. Gargash said in an interview with the American channel Alhurra that his country refuses that Turkey establishes a buffer zone in Syria and allowing a non-Arab presence in any Arab country, pointing out that the UAE “supports protecting the Kurds in Syria from the consequences of the American withdrawal.”The UAE minister avoided taking a clear position on the issue of the US withdrawal from Syria, whether by rejection or support. Regarding the re-opening of an embassy in Damascus, Gargash said that “the reopening of the UAE embassy in Syria took place after consultations with some allies in order to influence the course of events there.”

CNN: ISIS Has Been Reduced To 1.5 Square Miles In Syria. This Is Its Final Stand.

"They broke us, I swear to God. [ISIS] broke us," the tall man said. He was thin, in his mid-thirties, his face drawn with exhaustion, his eyes hollow. He had just walked with his extended family out of the town of Marashida, one of the last strongholds of ISIS in Eastern Syria. "You're Da'ish!" shot back a Kurdish fighter with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.  The man shook his head in denial, too exhausted to further protest. On a remote stretch of the Euphrates River in eastern Syria, the so-called Islamic State is fighting its last stand. A realm that once stretched from western Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad is, according to a senior SDF commander who spoke to CNN on condition on anonymity, a mere four square kilometers.  "With the help of artillery and airplanes we were able to take control of this place," one SDF soldier said, walking down the rubble-strewn main drive of Susa, one of the latest villages to be liberated from ISIS. "Within ten days, God willing, we will finish."  The end of the war against ISIS is in sight, but the difficulty of the current battle is clear in footage shot in the Syrian villages of Susa and Marashida and provided exclusively to CNN by freelance warzone cameraman Gabriel Chaim.”

NPR: World Health Organization Sounds Alarm About Dire Conditions As Syrians Flee Conflict

“The World Health Organization says 29 children have died as their families fled from fighting to a camp in northeastern Syria. Most have died from exposure to cold on the trip or at the camp. AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: As the Senate has been debating pulling out U.S. troops from Syria, more disturbing information has come out today about the conditions for some in that country. The World Health Organization says that in the last two months, at least 29 children have died as their families fled the conflict for a camp in Northeastern Syria. Most died from exposure to the cold on the trip or at the camp itself. NPR's Ruth Sherlock was there a few days ago. She's left Syria and joins us now on the line. Welcome back, Ruth. RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: Thank you. CORNISH: So the WHO is sounding a warning about the conditions for these thousands of people - right? - who are streaming into this camp. Can you tell us what it was like there?”

Fox News: Trump Shouldn’t Pull Out Of Syria Now – Needs Tougher Anti-Iran Strategy

“The 68-23 vote by the Senate Thursday for an amendment opposing the withdrawal American troops from Syria and Afghanistan demonstrates the Republican-controlled chamber doesn’t support President Trump’s desire to pull U.S. troops out of both nations at this time. The amendment is to a bill that has yet to be voted on in the Senate. President Trump tweeted in December that the approximately 2,000 American troops in Syria would be withdrawn soon, writing: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” Defense Secretary James Mattis soon resigned soon afterward. And President Trump’s top intelligence officials testified before Congress this week that ISIS – despite suffering big losses in territory and fighters – has not been defeated and remains a threat. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., normally a staunch ally of the president, said Thursday that “ISIS and Al Qaeda have yet to be defeated” in Syria and Afghanistan.”

Reuters: Islamic State Denies Causing Blast In Syria's Idlib

“Islamic State on Thursday denied being behind a suicide blast that hit the governing council of insurgent-held Idlib in northwest Syria on Tuesday, its Amaq news service said. The explosion, which targeted the “Salvation Government” building of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militia in Idlib this Tuesday was not connected to fighters of the Islamic State,” Amaq said, citing a security source.  Islamic State only rarely denies carrying out attacks. Idlib and adjacent areas in northwest Syria are the last stronghold of rebels who rose up against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011. Tahrir al-Sham this month seized control of most of Idlib after fighting with Turkish-backed insurgents.  No other group has claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s blast. There have been frequent bombings and shootings targeting officials in rebel groups in Idlib over the past year. The Salvation Government runs the areas held by Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist alliance that includes the former Syrian al Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front.  A war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said on Tuesday the blast had killed one person and injured three others, and that Islamic State was suspected.”

Fox News: Pentagon Watchdog Warns ISIS Could Retake Syrian Territory In Months After US Withdrawal: Official

“A forthcoming report from the Pentagon's inspector general says the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group will regain territory it has lost in Syria in a matter of months without military pressure, a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News late Thursday. The draft report will be delivered to Pentagon officials and lawmakers on Friday, with the full report due to be made public Monday. NBC News first reported on the draft's conclusion. The inspector general's office releases quarterly reports about the progress of the anti-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria, dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve. The office's previous quarterly report, made public in November, made headlines when it estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 ISIS fighters were still in Iraq and Syria. The same report said that ISIS had lost all of the territory it had held in Iraq and all but 1 percent of the territory it once held in Syria. However, it added that U.S. military officials and United Nations monitors said that militants had gone underground and were waging an "effective clandestine" insurgency in both countries. "Thousands of ISIS fighters remain in Syria. In the near term, we expect they will focus on guerrilla-type tactics after losing the remaining ground under ISIS control," a second senior U.S. defense official told Fox News.”

Arab News:  In Former Daesh Bastion, Displaced Syrians Clamor To Go Home

“In the former militant bastion of Hajjin in eastern Syria, 50-year-old Khaled Abed shouts at the top of his lungs amid the rubble, asking why he cannot go home. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) expelled Daesh from the town last month, but it has since forbidden anyone from returning to its town center. “I want to go home. Why can’t I?” Abed bellows in the street near what was once the town market but has become a cordoned off military area. “Our sons are the ones who liberated” this town, says the father of four SDF fighters, wearing a checkered red-and-white scarf on his head. “Why won’t they allow us back? By God, it’s outrageous.” Backed by airstrikes of the US-led coalition, the SDF is still battling the last militants south of Hajjin. Abed fled Hajjin last year while it was still under Daesh rule, seeking refuge in a camp for the displaced in SDF-held territory. He returned in recent days to find his family’s five homes destroyed, but wants access to rebuild them. The SDF has allowed people to return to others parts of the town, but not in its devastated center. “No civilians allowed,” they repeat all day long, to anybody trying to enter. The main road is closed, but two trucks carrying people and their belongings drive down a side road toward an adjacent neighborhood.”

Iran

The New York Times: 3 European Nations Create Firm To Trade With Iran, But Will Anyone Use It?

“Furious after President Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed punitive banking sanctions last year, European leaders vowed to find a way to enable Tehran to keep doing business with the rest of the world. After months of delay, and after enduring mockery from the Trump administration, three major European allies on Thursday finally introduced a financial mechanism to do just that. The question now is whether anyone will actually use it. The new company, called Instex, for Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges, would essentially allow goods to be bartered between Iranian companies and foreign ones without direct financial transactions or using the dollar. By avoiding the American banking system and currency, the hope is that European companies and others will feel confident that they can do business with Iran without being subject to the sanctions. The European countries — Britain, France and Germany — were all signatories to the Iran deal in 2015, as was the United States under President Barack Obama. The Europeans, along with Russia and China, who were also signatories, have all vowed to keep to the terms of the agreement, which was intended to ensure that Iran could not build a nuclear weapon.”

Iraq

Radio Free Europe: Tajik Women Get Life Sentences In Iraq For Belonging To IS

“Five Tajik women have been sentenced to life in prison in Iraq after being found guilty of belonging to the extremist group Islamic State. Zubaidullo Zubaizoda, the Tajik ambassador to Iraq and Kuwait, told RFE/RL that the five were sentenced on January 31. He said an official from the Tajik Embassy in Baghdad was present for the sentencing of Sadorat Qurbonova, Maftuna Majidova, Gulrukhsor Alieva, Gulbahor Saifulloeva, and her daughter Mahfuza Qurbonova. According to Zubaizoda, the sentencing of another Tajik citizen, Maqsuda Jakhbarova, was postponed after Iraqi officials were unable to find an Uzbek translator for her. It wasn’t the first such case in Iraq. According to Tajik data, 43 Tajik women were sentenced to prison in Iraq in recent years after being found guilty of belonging to IS. Last year, 13 were handed sentences ranging from 20 years to life in prison. According to Tajik officials, some 1,900 Tajik citizens have fought alongside IS militants in Syria and Iraq in recent years.”

Afghanistan

The Washington Post: U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan Tied To Afghan Dialogue And A Taliban Cease-Fire

“The Trump administration struggled this week to clarify its intentions in Afghanistan, after the president’s call to withdraw thousands of U.S. troops and reports that it was negotiating a departure schedule with the Taliban, rather than with the Afghan government. No withdrawal will occur until a comprehensive cease-fire and a political road map for peace have been negotiated between the militants and the Afghans, a senior administration official said. Instead, the official described a step-by-step process in which nothing of substance will happen until every piece of a complex series of actions is in place. “Our position right now, and [the Taliban] understand it, is that nothing will be implemented” until agreement on all issues has “not only has been completed, but has started to be implemented,” the official said. “Everything is to be implemented at the same time,” said the official, who agreed there has been “some misunderstanding” about what happened during the latest U.S.-Taliban meeting, and in subsequent U.S. talks this week with the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The U.S. official spoke on the condition of anonymity to address the sensitive diplomatic exchanges.”

The National: Afghanistan: Kabul Residents Share Fears Of Taliban Return

“A lot of our conversations in Kabul and across Afghanistan these days are about peace. For the first time in my lifetime, the end of this conflict seems like a real possibility. But as we watch developments between the Taliban and the US administration, we are cautious. As Afghans we have learned the hard way not to raise our hopes too high. A saying in Dari, one of Afghanistan’s official languages, translates as: “A person bitten by a snake will always be afraid of any long rope.” The recent meetings between Taliban leaders and Zalmay Khalilzad, US special envoy for peace, are reported to have produced an initial framework for peace in Afghanistan, including clauses for the US withdrawal of troops and – if rumours in the bazaar are to be believed – a more controversial proposal for an interim government involving the Taliban. Mr Khalilzad has denied that such a proposal is under a consideration, but regardless, for many Afghans, talk of the Taliban returning to power has brought back grim memories. From 1996 until 2001, the Taliban imposed a fundamentalist Islamist rule over most of Afghanistan. My own memories of visiting Taliban-ruled Kabul from Pakistan, where my family had sought refuge, are unpleasant.”

Foreign Policy: It’s Time To Trust The Taliban

“In the peace process now underway with the Afghan Taliban, one-and-a-half significant U.S. interests are at stake. The “half” is the only real hang-up to signing a deal and bringing home American troops right now. For Afghans, of course, the stakes in the present war are different and infinitely higher than for Americans, for whom the only vital interest is also the easiest to achieve: a Taliban agreement not to host international terrorists themselves and to do their utmost to prevent Afghanistan from once again being used as a base for terrorism against the West in general and the United States in particular. One can be confident that the Taliban would not only agree to this but also follow through on the agreement. It’s not just because Taliban supporters and interlocutors, in public statements and private conversations (including my own), have almost universally, if grimly, acknowledged that hosting al Qaeda in the run-up to 9/11 was a dreadful mistake that cost them their rule over Afghanistan. It’s also because the Taliban are now engaged in a bitter fight with the forces of the Islamic State (who most certainly are anti-Western international terrorists) for control of parts of Afghanistan. The Taliban’s role as an enemy of the Islamic State (as well as prudent preparation for the possible collapse of the U.S.-backed order in Kabul) has led Russia and China to launch talks with the Taliban.”

Washington Examiner: Will Trump's Taliban Deal Boost ISIS In Afghanistan?

“Republican lawmakers are worried President Trump's tentative deal with the Taliban to end the Afghanistan War is ignoring the new danger posed by an Islamic State offshoot group that's on the rise. “Everybody's talking about the wrong thing,” a Republican congressman who recently traveled to Afghanistan told the Washington Examiner. "They're talking about the Taliban. They need to be talking about ISIS." The new group, known as ISIS-Khorasan Province, wants to emulate the self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria can be inferred from their name. “Khorasan” refers to a region of an ancient Persian empire that stretched across parts of modern-day Afghanistan, Iran, and other Central Asian countries. The terror cell in northern Afghanistan has developed into one of the most troublesome destinations for terrorists. Another Republican lawmaker said a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan would be a gift to the group that aspires to overthrow the central government in Kabul. The emerging U.S. deal with the Taliban is based on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen stressed the need for “withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan” in a message to the Associated Press on Wednesday about a prospective deal with the United States.”

Yemen

News.Com.Au: Saudi-Led Coalition Hits Yemen Drone Site

“The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has attacked a site east of the capital Sanaa which the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement used to store drones, Saudi news agency SPA says. Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki was quoted as saying the bombardment was part of a two-week-old operation to destroy the Houthis' drone capabilities following a deadly drone attack on a Yemeni government military parade. A senior official of the United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday the coalition, which also includes the UAE, was prepared to use "calibrated force" to push the Houthis to withdraw from Hodeidah port city under a UN-sponsored deal. Yemen's civil war pits the Houthis against the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which was ousted from power in late 2014. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and left millions on the brink of starvation.”

Middle East

Forbes: We Must Ensure Terrorists Are Denied Access To Children

“Extremists have a long history of reaching out to young people, precisely because they are vulnerable, in order to indoctrinate them with problematic views. Take Khuram Butt – the London Bridge terrorist – who was allowed access to primary school children through teaching after school Arabic classes at Eton Community School, formerly Ad-Deen Primary School, in Ilford.  He told children that non-Muslims were the ‘worst creatures’ and that lying to their parents was acceptable. Youssef Zaghba, another one of the London Bridge attackers, was allowed access to children at a gymnastics club prior to planning a terrorist attack. He had not undergone any background checks. Umar Haque was found guilty of attempting to radicalize at least 110 children at Ripple Road mosque, where we taught an Islamic studies class despite having no teaching qualifications. In his classes, he re-enacted attacks on police officers and showed students videos of beheadings.”

Khaleej Times: UAE, Saudi Arabia,Yemen Ask UN To Pressure Houthis

“United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Yemen's government asked the UN Security Council on Thursday to turn up the pressure on Houthi rebels to uphold a ceasefire deal. In a letter sent to the council, the three governments accused the Houthis of violating the ceasefire in the port city of Hodeida 970 times since it came into force on December 18. They asked the council to "impress upon the Houthis, that they will be held responsible if their continued failure to comply... leads to the collapse of the Stockholm agreement," said the letter seen by AFP. Yemen and the Houthis agreed to the ceasefire and a redeployment of forces from Hodeida during UN-brokered talks in Sweden last month. But deadlines for the pullback of forces and a prisoner swap have slipped, fueling worries that the Stockholm agreement may be in jeopardy. Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday to discuss problems in implementing the Stockholm deal.”

Haaretz: A Direct Victim Of U.S. Anti-Terror Law: Israeli-Palestinian Coexistence Groups

“A number of Palestinian and Israeli civil society groups that have received grants from the U.S. government to promote coexistence could lose millions of dollars as a result of the debate over the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act. The ATCA law, passed by Congress last year, has been making headlines in recents months due to concerns in both D.C. and Israel that it will lead to the end of U.S. security assistance to the Palestinian Authority, and harm Israeli and Palestinian security coordination. The security assistance, however, is not the only element of U.S. assistance to the Palestinians that could fall victim to the legislation. Organizations that promote “people-to-people” interactions between Israelis and Palestinians, which have received grants from the U.S. government, are about to lose a significant amount of money for their operations. The PA’s interpretation of ATCA led it to announce it would no longer accept any form of U.S. assistance in order to avoid multimillion dollar lawsuits. The PA is concerned about facing potentially significant financial damages, which would go well beyond the sums of money it receives annually from Washington.”

Libya

Reuters: Libyan Forces Arrest Suspected Islamic State Member In Sirte

“Libyan security forces have arrested a suspected leading member of Islamic State, Khalifa al-Barq, in the militant group’s former stronghold of Sirte, an official and residents said on Thursday. A city official confirmed the arrest but denied that foreign troops had been involved in the operation as claimed by some residents. U.S. troops have several times captured militants in Libya. Barq was taken from his home in Sirte late on Wednesday, the official said. He gave no more details. Libyan forces, backed up by U.S. air strikes, expelled Islamic State militants from Sirte in December 2016, a coastal city they had seized in 2015. The group has sought refuge in the southern desert of Libya, a country in turmoil since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and recently stepped up attacks in several cites including the capital Tripoli.”

Nigeria

Defense Post: Nigeria Troops Kill 5 Boko Haram Insurgents In Borno State

“Nigerian troops “neutralized” five Boko Haram insurgents and captured a suspected militant in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state close to the Cameroon border, the army said. It is unclear to which faction of Boko Haram the militants belonged, although the faction led by Abubakar Shekau is known to be active in the general area. Troops on patrol with the Civilian Joint Task Force militia “along Gwoza-Yamteke” on Wednesday “came across some Boko Haram terrorists attempting to infiltrate the general area,” Colonel Ado Isa, Deputy Director Army Public Relations said in a statement published on Facebook on Thursday, January 31. “On sighting the troops, the terrorists opened fire on them, which lead to a heavy exchange of fire,” Isa said. The troops overpowered and neutralized four “Boko Haram terrorists including Adamu Rugu Rugu” who Ado described as “a very notorious terrorist, an indegene of Gwoza town, who had been troubling the law abiding citizens of Gwoza and its environment for many years.” Two machine guns and two AK-type assault rifles were recovered. Gwoza is close to the Cameroon border, around 100 km (62 miles) southeast of Borno state capital Maiduguri, and around 18 km (11 miles) south of Pulka, where early on January 24, troops fought off an attack by fighters believed to be from the Abubakar Shekau-led faction of Boko Haram.”

Defense Post: Islamic State Claims Attack On Nigeria Troops In Dikwa, Borno State

“Islamic State claimed fighters from its West Africa province affiliate attacked Nigerian military personnel in Dikwa in northeast Nigeria, while military sources told AFP that eight soldiers were killed. Two military officers told AFP that a military convoy late on Wednesday, January 30 ran into ISWA fighters near the town of Dikwa, around 90 km (55 miles) east of Borno state capital Maiduguri, towards the border with Chad. “The terrorists in three guntrucks and several motorcycles engaged the military convoy around 7:40 pm [1840GMT], killing eight soldiers,” the first military officer said. One soldier was still missing. “The fighting lasted for 30 minutes and the military convoy of only three vehicles was outgunned and eight soldiers were killed,” the second officer said. In a Thursday statement, ISIS said ISWA fighters attacked the military in Dikwa, engaging them with heavy and medium weapons. It claimed two soldiers were captured, and that 15 soldiers were killed and others injured, while the remainder fled. The statement did not say when the attack occurred. The insurgents were forced to flee following troop reinforcements from Dikwa and nearby Gajibo, the first officer told AFP.”

Somalia

Reuters:  U.S. Says Air Strike Killed 24 Militants in Somalia

“The U.S. military said on Thursday it had killed 24 militants in an air strike on Wednesday in the vicinity of Shebeeley in central Somalia. The military’s Africa Command (Africom) said in a statement that no civilians were believed to have been killed or injured in the air strike in the Hiran region. The attack comes less than two weeks after the U.S. military launched a strike that killed 52 Islamists who had attacked a Somali military base earlier that day. Al Shabaab retains a strong presence in parts of southern and central Somalia. The U.S. military has stepped up air strikes over the last year in support of a U.N.-backed government there, which has been fighting against the Shabaab insurgency for years.”

Africa

News 24: Uganda Seeks Return Of 'Extremist' Suspects From Mozambique

“Ugandan authorities on Thursday said they were planning to seek the extradition of six suspected Islamist extremists being held in Mozambique. The announcement came two days after Mozambican police said they had arrested three Ugandans, claiming they were senior figures in a radical Islamist organisation behind attacks in the country's gas-rich northern Cabo Delgado province. Another three were already in custody, Uganda police spokesperson Fred Enanga said. "We've been working together with the Mozambique government and we understand they have arrested a number of suspects," Enanga said. Through the foreign ministry, Kampala had expressed "an interest in six of them" who would be brought back to face charges at home, he said.  Uganda does not have an extradition treaty with Mozambique. One of the suspects was Abdul Rahman Faisal, who said he had nothing to do with the Cabo Delgado attacks, but claimed he belonged to "Al-Shabaab in Uganda" - in an apparent reference to the Somali Islamist militant group which has no known links to the ongoing insurgency in Mozambique.  But he claimed he had nothing to do with the Cabo Delgado attacks.”

United Kingdom

Sky News: Man, 21, Held After Machete Attack In Front Of Terrified Shoppers In Sheffield City Centre

“A 21-year-old man has been held on suspicion of attempted murder after a machete attack in front of terrified shoppers in Sheffield city centre on Thursday morning. The attack happened just before 9.30am and prompted shoppers to run and shop workers to lock their doors. One woman said she had seen a man holding what she thought was a sword, adding: "We were so scared, we thought he was going to kill everyone. "The first thing I thought was that it was terrorism." She said she had hidden in the nearby McDonald's. "I was just walking to work and I just wanted to get safe," she added. "We went into the restaurant and they locked the doors." South Yorkshire Police said a man, 47, had been injured but he was not in a life-threatening condition. Witnesses said he suffered head injuries but was able to walk into an ambulance. A 21-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, possession of a knife or bladed article and possession of drugs. He remains in custody as police investigate the incident, which is not being treated as terrorism. Another witness, George Speight, from Goldthorpe, South Yorkshire, said he had been in McDonald's when he saw a man with a 15in machete.”

France

France 24: Americans Who Thwarted Train Terror Attack Become French Citizens

“Three Americans hailed as heroes for thwarting a jihadist attack on a train between Amsterdam and Paris were officially welcomed as French citizens on Thursday in a ceremony in the US state of California. Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone, all aged 26, "risked their lives for the values of the republic," Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, the French consul general in San Francisco, said at the ceremony in Sacramento. While on vacation in Europe, the trio took action on August 21, 2015 to prevent a bloodbath on the high-speed Thalys train, tackling a man who opened fire on travelers. The gunman, identified as Moroccan national Ayoub El Khazzani, was armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a pistol and a box cutter. The attacker had seriously injured a person before the intervention of the three Americans, two of whom were in the military at the time: Skarlatos in the Oregon National Guard, and Stone in the Air Force. The three young men received the Legion d'honneur, the highest French distinction, from then-president Francois Hollande, and became even more famous after the incident was made into a Clint Eastwood movie in which the three played themselves. The three were naturalized at their request.”

Europe

The Irish Times: A Hard Border Would Bring Destructive Clarity To The North

“It is too easy to be smug about the relative peace that has prevailed in Northern Ireland over the past 20 years. The threat of a return to violence in Northern Ireland has thus hung over the Brexit negotiations like a dark cloud. Recent dissident republican activity in Derry is the physical manifestation of this hazard. We need to recognise the extent to which the world has changed since 1998. A new era of technology enables dangerous pockets of extremism to survive – and thrive – even with moderating factors all around. Encrypted communication tools mean extremists can cloak their communications from security services with more ease than ever before. Social media provides an outlet for propaganda that legitimises and reinforces dehumanising violent ideology.”

Bloomberg: Putin Shows Rare Soft Spot To Rescue Russia's ISIS Children

“Zalina Gabibulayeva has had five children, four husbands and two jail sentences. All her spouses were Islamist militants who are either dead or in prison, the last two in Syria, where she was among hundreds of women stranded by the war before officials brought her back to Russia. “I thank God every day that we are here,” Gabibulayeva, 37, said by phone from Grozny, the capital of Russia’s mostly Muslim republic of Chechnya, where she and her children receive about 40,000 rubles ($610) per month in state welfare payments. While President Vladimir Putin is renowned for his ruthless approach to terrorists -- once vowing to “waste them in the outhouse” -- Russia has been more willing than many Western nations to help women and children linked with Islamic State fighters to return home from the Middle East. He’s explained the motivation by saying children didn’t choose to go to the conflict zone “and we have no right to leave them there.” Nearly 100 family members of jihadists in Syria and Iraq were repatriated in late 2017 before Russia’s intelligence service raised security concerns in a country that’s repeatedly been the target of terrorist attacks.”

Southeast Asia

Manila Bulletin: The Cost Of Terrorism

“The aftermath of the bombing in Jolo will not show up in the gross development product of the country. But for the local community, there will definitely be a lowering of economic activity. The lockdown imposed by the military and police authorities will mean establishments closing earlier if not relocating to larger and perceived well protected areas. Less consumer spending as families migrate to safer communities and all the interconnectedness create a negative environment. It will be the same for similar porous centers close to neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia where it is alleged the ISIS can easily come and go despite the memorandum of agreement among the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Each country’s major concern is protecting its borders; not really preventing terrorists from leaving. It is important to surround the archipelago with enough sea-craft which means a larger and modern Philippine Navy with the Philippine Coast Guard integrated into it. Within Mindanao which still is under martial, is the best time to pilot test the national ID system. It should be issued by a national agency with sufficient information technology and data capability. A clear distinction should be made between military and police operations.”

Technology

The Wall Street Journal: Apple Exerts Power As Privacy Protector

“Apple Inc. AAPL 0.72% is flexing its power as a self-appointed privacy protector, punishing Google and Facebook FB 10.82% Inc. over violations of its developer policies governing personal data in moves that harden battle lines over one of the technology industry’s most sensitive issues. The iPhone maker on Thursday suspended internal apps used by Google employees on Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, after the Alphabet Inc. GOOGL 2.54% unit acknowledged it had used one such app to gather data on internet use from consumers who volunteered in exchange for gift cards. That came a day after Apple took the same step against Facebook over its use of a similar data-gathering effort that also used Apple’s system for companies’ internal apps. Facebook said later Thursday that its apps were working again on Apple devices. Google and Apple said Thursday afternoon that they were working to restore Google apps.”

The Diplomatic Courier: The Acrid Stench Of Neo-Nazi Content On YouTube

“On January 23, 2019, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) spotted on Google’s YouTube platform vulgar videos from the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, which would have remained there but for CEP’s vigilant policing—a job that YouTube can and should be doing. YouTube assured Congress that it had invested in the necessary tech software to quickly zap domestic extremist hate, but the evidence points otherwise.”

The Verge: The Verge: Facebook Removes Hundreds More Pages Linked To Iranian Influence Campaign

“Today, Facebook removed nearly 800 accounts that were engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior originating in Iran and operated in a number of other countries across the world. In total, Facebook identified 262 pages, 356 accounts, and three groups that were involved in the coordinated inauthentic behavior by Iran. There were 162 Instagram accounts that were identified as well. Facebook would not confirm that the accounts were created by the Iranian government. No related behavior was found on WhatsApp, according to Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher. “In this case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action,” Gleicher wrote in the post. The Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFR) analyzed the accounts that Facebook had identified. According to DFR, much of the content posted across these groups and pages spread pro-Iranian messages and engaged in amplifying already polarizing topics, like the Israel-Palestine conflict.”