A Gitmo official departs; A US drone kills a militant in Somalia; Death threats to Kennedy, Lippert up; IAVA: 'The wait we carry'; And a bit more.
An analysis of Islamic State Twitter data reveals a few simple steps that Twitter can take right now to make online life much harder for ISIS, Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reports after poring over Brookings’ J.M. Berger and data scientist Jonathon Morgan’s “ISIS Twitter census.” Tucker writes: “The data suggests that Twitter is still relying on user reports to target accounts for suspension rather than analyzing network behavior. The result is an approach to Terms of Service enforcement that many refer to as whack-a-mole… [however] The preponderance of hashtags related to suspensions suggests that dealing with Twitter cops is becoming a high cost activity for ISIS forcing them to hop around from account to account, ‘instead of showing pictures of beheadings, which is what they would prefer to be doing,’ said Berger.” More on the three simple steps to defeat ISIS on Twitter, here.
An air campaign of a different sort: Iraqis drop thousands of leaflets on Mosul promising liberation. The WaPo’s Loveday Morris: “…Addressed to “the people of Mosul,” the flier, copies of which were circulated online, promised that the city would be liberated soon. Qais Karim of the Defense Ministry’s media office said the air force’s C-130 Hercules planes made the drops to ‘mobilize the people.’” More here.
But is Mosul a bridge too far? For War on the Rocks, Craig Whiteside’s new piece: “…Identifying Mosul as the natural Schwerpunkt [nice one!] of a combined attack is one thing – taking and holding Mosul for the long-term is a much more difficult proposition. ISIL’s political and economic entrenchment in Ninewa province, the lack of motivated allies in the area, and a long logistical line of communication from Baghdad could make Mosul a bridge too far.” More here.
More on those worrisome militias in Iraq: The New York Times graphics team put together a stunning collection of before/after photos of alleged revenge violence by Shiite militias. Check that out, here.
The downing of that U.S. drone over Syria suggests Damascus is imposing red lines. Reuters’ Tom Perry and Sylvia Westall, here.
The UN says ISIS may have committed genocide against the minority Yazidis. Reuters’ Stephanie Nebehay this hour: The United Nations human rights office said on Thursday that Islamic State fighters may have committed genocide against the minority Yazidi community in Iraq as well as crimes against humanity and war crimes against civilians including children.
In a report based on interviews with more than 100 alleged victims and witnesses, it urged the U.N. Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution of perpetrators.” More here.
Meantime, the death toll from the museum attack in Tunisia rises to 23. AP, here.
American forces used a drone to target and kill a member of al-Shabaab tied to the West Gate mall attack in 2013, and likely nab two other militants. Lubold’s story: “An American drone killed Adan Garar, described by defense officials as a member of al-Shabaab’s intelligence and security wing, in Dinsoor, in south-central Somalia, on March 12.
Defense officials, in a statement: “He posed a major threat to the region and the international community and was connected to the West Gate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya… His death has dealt another significant blow to the al Shabab terrorist organization in Somalia.”
Pentagon officials would not say if any other militants were targeted in the strike or if it had caused any civilian casualties. But J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, citing conversations he had had with Somali officials as early as last week, said two other militants had been killed in the drone attack. That couldn’t be immediately confirmed by U.S. officials.
Garar was not very well known but in fact was considered “a major Shabab player,” Pham said, and “one of their more skilled operatives.” He had participated in attacks outside Somalia, including in Uganda and Kenya, Pham said.” Read the rest here.
The Navy’s newly christened mobile landing platform afloat forward staging base Lewis B. Puller (a mouthful!) could go to work off the coast of Africa soon. Marine Corps Times’ Hope Hodge Seck: “…Marine Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford alluded to a plan that would place the new vessel in the Corps' seabasing arsenal during a panel discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies earlier this month. The Puller was christened in February, but has yet to be commissioned.” More here.
In Libya, Ansar al-Sharia releases photos of its graduates of “mujahideen training camps.” Long War Journal’s Bill Roggio, here.
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Death threats against U.S. Amb. Caroline Kennedy in Japan. The NYT’s Martin Fackler and Rick Gladstone: “The police in Japan are investigating telephoned death threats to… [Kennedy] and to an American diplomat in Okinawa, Japanese and international news agencies reported on Wednesday. The reports came as Michelle Obama, the first lady, arrived in Japan on her first visit to the country… Concern about the security of American diplomats in Asia was heightened a few weeks ago when the United States ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was slashed by a knife-wielding assailant in Seoul.” More here.
Meantime, Lippert (and former Pentagon chief of staff) posted pictures on Facebook of he and his wife and new child and Basset Grigsby, walking to work this morning. Posted he: “Great to walk into work today… great to be back!”
In Afghanistan, Kandahar Airfield and Jalalabad are likely to stay open for U.S. troops through the end of the year, officials tell Reuters’ Arshad Mohammed, David Rohde and Phil Stewart: “Former U.S. officials said that there appeared to have been remarkable unanimity among the U.S. national security agencies over the merits of slowing the withdrawal in the face of some skepticism from the White House…
“The two bases are crucial to the Pentagon because the U.S. military uses them to train, advise and assist senior Afghan commanders in charge of some of the Afghan army's six corps as well as Afghan special operations forces. Kandahar in southern Afghanistan is also vital for the embryonic Afghan air force and supports smaller bases in the Taliban heartland. Jalalabad, to Kabul's southeast, is the main base facing Taliban and other militants that enjoy safe haven in Pakistan…” More, here.
Late Wednesday, a truck bomb exploded outside the provincial governor’s compound in Helmand killing 7 and wounding nearly 50 others. NYTs from Lashkar Gah, here.
Researchers at Yale found Afghan villages with the highest opinion of U.S. forces were most likely to draw punishment attacks from the Taliban. More on the latest twists in the hearts and minds battle for Afghanistan’s future, here.
A senior Pentagon official, and retired Marine two-star, is resigning Saturday from his job overseeing military tribunals at Gitmo. The WaPo’s Missy Ryan: “[The] senior Pentagon official overseeing the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is stepping down following a controversial order, now reversed, that would have required judges to relocate to the military base during the slow-moving process of trying detainees there.
Vaughn Ary, a retired Marine Corps major general who was appointed to a three-year term as the convening authority for the military commissions last fall, will resign effective Saturday, the Pentagon said in a statement.
“…At issue was a decision this year by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work, who ordered that military judges overseeing trials of defendants charged in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and other cases should relocate to Guantanamo. He was following Ary’s recommendation to do so. Currently, judges spend part of each month at the military base, located on an isolated corner of Cuba.”
SecDef Ash Carter picked Paul L. Oostburg Sanz, general counsel for the Department of the Navy, to fill the role for now. Read the rest of Ryan’s story here.
Who’s up to what today? State’s Tony Blinken heads to the House Foreign Affairs Committee today to talk Iran nuclear negotiations at 8:30 a.m. … the House Armed Services Committee talks missile defense with DOD’s Brian McKeon, NORAD/NORTHCOM’s Adm. Bill Gortney and others (lineup and streaming link here) at 9 a.m. … the Senate Armed Services Committee talks budgets with Strategic, Transportation and Cyber Commands today (lineup here) at 9:30 a.m. … HASC returns at 10:30 a.m. to talk ground force modernization and the Army’s Aviation Restructuring Initiative with six different witnesses testifying (more here)… and SASC’s Airland Subcommittee talks Air Force plans and budget concerns at 2:30 p.m. today. More on that one, here.
Also today: A bipartisan group of six members of the House marks the 12th anniversary of the Iraq War with the launch of a new Congressional Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus. Its members include Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania), Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona), Duncan Hunter (R-California), Mark Takai (D-Hawaii) and Ted Lieu (D-California). Gabbard and Perry will co-chair the caucus—whose ambitious goals are to “strive to improve Veterans’ transition to civilian life, reduce the Veterans Affairs disability claims backlog, promote education, entrepreneurship and employment opportunities, and ensure responsive, expedient and efficient services for Veterans.” That gets under way at 9:30 a.m. over at the House’s TV and Radio Gallery.
Mix data visualization with feedback about the VA and you get the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America’s new site, The Wait We Carry. It’s a richly interactive database that continues to grow with more than 1,800 veterans so far having shared their experiences re: disability claims and satisfaction with VA facilities. Check it out for yourself, here.
Also today, Duncan Hunter introduces a bill that seeks better coordination across government when it comes to hostage cases. AP’s Deb Riechmann just this morning on the bill that already appears to have support from SecDef Ash Carter: “…California Rep. Duncan Hunter said he will introduce a bill Thursday that calls on the president to task one person to lead U.S. efforts to recover American hostages. The bill comes as Islamic extremists are targeting Americans across the globe and the White House is reviewing how the U.S. responds when citizens are taken hostage.
Hunter to Ash Carter at a hearing Wednesday: "I think that there needs to be a buck-stops-here person.”
Carter, in reply: “"You're right… We do need a choreographer when that time comes to bring all those pieces together. ... This hostage rescue is an example of something that can only be done with a whole-of-government approach." More here.
SecDef Carter to HASC: President Obama will veto any budget that keeps the sequester in place. Defense Secretary Ash Carter yesterday told lawmakers at the House Armed Services Committee that their Budget Committee colleague’s plan to skirt budget caps by boosting the Overseas Contingency Operations account cripples the Pentagon’s mid- and long-term planning. Stars and Stripes’ Travis Tritton, here.
Lawmaker Steve Womack laments the Army’s taking of Apache helicopters from the Army National Guard. In fact, Womack called it “devastating.” Richard Sisk reports for Military.com, here.
Ready the Cyber Troops. The Christian Science Monitor and New America teamed up for a cybersecurity podcast at the Passcode blog. CSM’s Sara Sorcher and New America’s Peter Singer sit down with the Army’s Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon to talk what the Army’s cyber forces are up against; and The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris discusses post-Snowden tensions. Catch both of those—runs just over half an hour in full—during your lunch break, here.
The U.S. knows how to end drug violence in Central America – stick to what worked in Colombia – writes Jim Stavridis, once a Southern Command commander – in FP, here (may encounter paywall issues).
Speaking of which – ICYMI, Defense One’s Kevin Baron’s piece about what the current Southern Command commander, Gen. John Kelly, said earlier this month about ISIS fighters returning from war in the Caribbean and close to the U.S., here.
WIC: Women trying out for armor units in the Mojave Desert: “if you an hack it, you can hack it.” NPR’s Tom Bowman: “…Whether… women will work alongside male Marines in ground combat units is an open question. The Pentagon lifted the ban on women serving in the unforgiving world of ground combat — infantry, armor and artillery units — but gave the armed service's branches until January to ask for exemptions.
Now the Marines and the Army are running the necessary tests to see what women soldiers can do. Dozens of female Marines are taking part in this experiment at the desert base at Twentynine Palms for the next month.” Read (and listen!) to this story here.
60 Minutes did a piece called “A Few Good Women” on women and Marines and the tough Infantry Officer Course by CBS’ longtime duo David Martin and producer Mary Walsh, here.
And, speaking of the Mojave…
“Sweat equity”: Martin and Walsh hike two days in the Mojave with Marines to get the story. From “60 Minutes Overtime:”
Martin, age 71, on why they did it: “Basically it was to prove to the Marines that we were ‘all in’ on this story… They weren’t just going to give up their secrets for a drive-by story where somebody came and shot a few frames and then said “oh look at how tough the training is.”
Walsh: “It was so hot, it was 110 degrees, and the mountain itself is just all stone, so as we were climbing, it was as if nothing was stationary, everything you kind of grabbed on to would kind of slide.”
Martin: “That hike for us was day one; for the Marines, that was Day 71, and those guys had been humping for 70 days.” Video and more here.
The White House to “re-evaluate” its Mideast strategy in the wake of Netanyahu’s win. The WSJ’s Carol Lee and Joshua Mitnick, here.
Israelis chose Bibi over Barack: Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake on what the Israeli election means: “The experts who said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was vulnerable before yesterday's national election insisted that the vote was a referendum on him. His overwhelming victory shows that it was equally a referendum on U.S. President Barack Obama. Netanyahu gave voters a choice between whom to trust more with their nation's security. The result was clear.” More here.