U.S. officials could be sitting on possible evidence of war crimes from Turkish-backed forces in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reports ahead of a key meeting between the country’s two leaders tomorrow in Washington.
The quick read: “U.S. military officials watched live drone feeds last month that appeared to show Turkish-backed Arab gunmen targeting civilians during their assault on Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria, attacks the Americans reported to their commanders as possible war crimes,” Dion Nissenbaum and Gordon Lubold write. The videos reportedly include two incidents as part of a U.S. State Department report “regarding four credible cases of alleged war crimes by Turkish-backed forces.” The cases seem to involve Turkish-supported opposition fighters apparently shooting people either inside or near an automobile.
For the record, here’s how one U.S. military official described the matter to the Journal: The videos “were flagged by operators for the chain of command of a possible war crime that were not determined to be definitive proof of war crimes and appeared inconclusive upon further review.”
Now what? The issue is “expected to arise during a White House visit this Wednesday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan… but some U.S. officials say they doubt Turkey will take the issue seriously.” More here.
Elsewhere in Syria, “Three car bombs went off Monday in the town of Qamishli, killing at least six people while a priest was shot dead,” the Associated Press reports from one of the U.S.-staffed bases in eastern Syria.
The U.S. commander of that base, Air Force Maj. Gen. Eric T. Hill, told AP “while some troops are going home or withdrawing to Iraq, others are redeploying to Qamishli area, Deir el-Zour and Derik, an area where no U.S. bases were before… The military required that the names and exact locations of the bases not be identified.”
The Syrian Democratic Forces are quite pleased the U.S. is at these bases, and the oil security element of the U.S. mission now doesn’t hurt in terms of negotiating some sort of possibly more favorable political future, SDF spox Mustafa Bali told AP: “Here in northeast Syria, we are part of the total picture that is dealing with a crisis and requires finding a track for a political resolution…The presence of the U.S. forces, a military weight, will have a positive role in finding a political way out.” What exactly that might look like, however, is still impossible to tell.
According to AP’s observations, “One of the bases visited by journalists Monday was close to oil fields, but there was no way of telling if there was an increase of security around the facilities.” And in terms of equipment, “While one base was provided with the Bradley vehicles,” which are new to the U.S. mission in Syria, “Apache helicopters had moved in to another, apparently from a base dismantled further north.” Read on, here.
From Defense One
SecDef: Expect ‘Trimming, Reducing, Some Eliminations’ in 2021 Budget // Marcus Weisgerber: Esper touts good progress in high-level review intended to cut fat and find funds for projects to counter China and Russia.
The World Needs Twice as Many Cybersecurity Pros, Report Says // : In the U.S., an industry nonprofit found that two of every five cybersecurity jobs is going unfilled.
Macron’s ‘NATO Brain Death’ Quote Shows Why the US Has Always Outplayed France // Kori Schake, The Atlantic: Like Charles de Gaulle, the French president would unify Europe under France’s conception, with Germany footing the bill.
Afghanistan just released three militants in the hopes of obtaining two Western professors held captive for the past three years, AP reports from Kabul. “The two captives held by the Taliban — Kevin King, an American, and Timothy Weekes, an Australian — were abducted in 2016 outside the American University in Kabul where they both work as teachers.”
On the militant’s side, “The three members of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network that [Afghan President Ashraf] Ghani said were being released include Anas Haqqani, Haji Mali Khan and Hafiz Rashid.”
It’s too soon to know exactly if this worked, AP writes, noting that “By mid-afternoon, no visuals had emerged of the three figures. It was not immediately clear if they were still in Afghanistan, on their way or had already been sent — for example — to Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office.” Similarly, “There was also no statement from the Taliban or the Haqqani faction holding the American and Australian hostages, or any indication if and where the two would be freed.”
ICYMI: The Afghan peace talks process, one of them anyway, has moved to China. That’s so-called “intra-Afghan dialogue,” AP writes, and it’s taking place this week in Beijing. “The last time it was held was in July in Qatar. The dialogue is a separate process from the U.S.-Taliban talks under U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad that collapsed in September.” Read on, here.
An Israeli airstrike killed a senior militant inside his home in eastern Gaza today, “prompting fighters in the Palestinian enclave to fire at least 160 rockets into Israel that set off sirens and forced people into bomb shelters across the country,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
The target was a man named Bahaa Abu el-Atta of the Iranian-backed Palestinian group Islamic Jihad. “Iran supplies Islamic Jihad with training, expertise and money, though most of the group’s weapons in Gaza are believed to be locally produced,” AP reports. “By early afternoon Gaza authorities reported four killed, including Al-Atta, 42 and his wife in the predawn Israeli strike that destroyed a floor in their home, scattering debris around their neighbourhood,” according to Reuters.
The Abu el-Atta strike was just one of a handful of Israeli targeted attacks. “Another air strike in Gaza hit two men riding a motorcycle, killing one and wounding the other,” Reuters writes. “The Israeli military described them as an Islamic Jihad rocket crew. A third Palestinian man died in another strike.” Elsewhere, AP adds, “Syrian officials said an Israeli airstrike in the capital, Damascus, targeted another Islamic Jihad commander, Akram al-Ajouri, who was not harmed. Syria’s state-run news agency said Israeli warplanes fired three missiles at al-Ajouri’s home, killing his son and granddaughter.”
Netanyahu’s prediction: This won’t end soon. Or, as he told reporters today, “Israel is not interested in escalation [with Islamic Jihad or Hamas or affiliates], but we will do everything required to protect ourselves. This could take time. What is needed is stamina and cool-headedness.” More from AP’s reporting, here.
Also from Israel today: Authorities there extradited “alleged Russian hacker Alexei Burkov… to the U.S. to stand trial for a range of hacking-related crimes, including fraud, identity theft, computer intrusion and money laundering,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Burkov managed a website that sold data from more than 150,000 illegally obtained credit cards and set up an illegal forum for criminals to communicate to conduct illegal activity. The damage he caused victims in the U.S. as a result of the alleged criminal activity totaled approximately $20 million.” A bit more, here.
Germany is opening a new spy school for cyberdefense and counterterrorism, AP reports from Berlin. “The spy school is located at the new headquarters of the foreign intelligence agency BND, which was opened earlier this year and provides space for 4,000 staff.” Tiny bit more, here.
The European Union now has 47 joint weapons-development projects in the works under a 2017 agreement forged by Germany and 23 other EU governments after Britain announced its intent to leave the group, Reuters reports.
The projects and their lead countries include: a ballistic-missile tracker (France); an electronic jamming weapon to allow European combat aircraft to defeat air defenses (France with Spain and Sweden); European Patrol Corvette (France, Italy); anti-submarine system (France, Portugal, Spain and Sweden); and helicopters (France). 22 of the countries are also in NATO, whose heads of state will meet Dec. 4 in London. A bit more, here.
U.S. military bases are getting hotter, and that’s making training harder and more dangerous, according to a report released Monday by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The report looks at 167 CONUS bases, and calculates the increase in 100-degree heat index days at midcentury under three different sets of assumptions. It also lays out how many fewer “potentially lethal days each base would experience if the Paris climate agreement is enacted.”
“We were pretty astounded in the increase in the number of extreme heat days in such a relatively short period of time,” said Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists and the lead author of the report. “It’s already bad,” she added. “But when we put in context what is coming down the pike, the implication is really sobering.”
Within three decades, the average U.S. base will see 33 more of these “black flag” days, during which training is restricted. Some will see more, like Fort Sill, Oklahoma’s 53 days, InsideClimate and NBC News wrote off the report.
At least 17 troops have died from heat during training in the past decade. Heat-related injuries — primarily heat exhaustion and heat stroke — rose some 60 percent over the period, NBC/InsideClimate wrote. Read on, here.
A record total of 69,550 migrant children were held in U.S. government custody over the past year, AP reports off newly released data. That’s up 42 percent over the previous year, and the average length of time the children are kept away from their families is longer as well.
AP: “That’s more kids detained away from their parents than any other country, according to United Nations researchers. And it’s happening even though the U.S. government has acknowledged that being held in detention can be traumatic for children, putting them at risk of long-term physical and emotional damage.”
For the record: Currently, about 4,000 are being held in detention facilities. Read on, here.
And finally today: Don’t miss the latest installment of “Profiles in Service” from CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell. The first iteration this week focuses on Randy Lloyd, an Iraq war vet who struggled with post traumatic stress disorder, and found help through a program that winds up involving John Cena. Lloyd’s “story is the first in a five-part series that focuses on veterans who continue to serve their communities,” CBS writes. The series airs each night this week at 6:30 p.m. ET, and you can find Monday’s chat with Randy, here.