FP’s Situation Report: Malala wins Peace Prize; Turkey pushes on buffer zone; IS makes gains in Anbar; Ebola money held up in the Senate; and a bit more.
By Kate Brannen and Nathaniel Sobel Children’s rights activists Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today in Norway. From Oslo: "The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle ...
By Kate Brannen and Nathaniel Sobel
By Kate Brannen and Nathaniel Sobel
Children’s rights activists Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today in Norway. From Oslo: "The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism." You can read the full announcement here.
Yousafzai is an advocate for girls education despite repeated threats from the Taliban. Two years ago, a gunman stepped onto a school bus in northwest Pakistan and shot 15-year old Yousafzai in the head for her belief that all girls have a right to go to school. Since then, she’s created The Malala Fund, a nonprofit that advocates for girls education. You can view an interview with her from a year ago with The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart here.
Satyarthi gave up his career as an electrical engineer over thirty years ago to dedicate his life to helping free the millions of children in India who are forced into slavery. His organization, Bachpan Bachao Andolan or Save the Childhood Movement, was founded in 1980 and has worked to end the exploitation of children ever since.
In Kobani, a barrage of U.S. airstrikes seems to be making a difference, but Turkey’s intransigence is pushing the U.S. closer toward creating a buffer zone along the Syrian border. The NYT’s Tim Arango and Ceylan Yeginsu: "The idea is emerging as a possible way to end the standoff between the United States and Turkey, and American military planners are said to be looking at how to implement such a plan, which would require a no-fly zone and stepped up combat air patrols to take out Syrian air defense systems.
"Yet the prospect of a buffer zone is proving deeply divisive in Washington, as it would go far beyond President Obama’s original mission of taking on the Islamic State and would lead to a direct confrontation with the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad."
Frederic C. Hof, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former American envoy to the Syrian opposition: "It would mainly be a place where an alternate government structure would take root and for the training of rebels." More here.
But still some reports say the Islamic State is advancing deeper into the town. Reuters’ report here.
The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins weighs in on Turkey’s reluctance and the American mismatch between its means and ends. You can read his take here.
And The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos on Vice President Joe Biden’s recent comments at Harvard: "In describing the role of America’s regional allies in Syria, Biden was largely correct. The U.S. has publicly called on the Turks to seal their border to jihadists en route to Syria, and experts do not question that money from Gulf countries has ended up in the hands of militant extremists there. Andrew J. Tabler, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the Times’s Mark Landler that ‘there are factual mistakes, and then there are political mistakes’-and Biden’s was the latter." More here.
For FP, Berivan Orucoglu offers an in-depth analysis of Turkey’s reluctance to fight ISIS. First, she notes that Turkey sees ISIS as relatively less horrible than Syria’s Assad. As well, Turkish officials are concerned that developments in Iraq and Syria could undermine Turkey’s peace process with the Kurds and lead to an independent Kurdistan. Third, the 2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey are "tearing at the country’s social fabric." And lastly, while the West has accused Turkey of failing to prevent foreign fighters from passing through Turkey into Syria, that’s not how the Turks see it.
But Orucoglu argues that Turkey needs to address the threat on its border: "…the reality is that the Islamic State poses a more serious and direct security threat to Turkey than to the West. Despite the current government’s sympathy to political Islam, Turkey has never really experienced a significant jihadist presence at home before the group’s rise. Now, the Islamic State is not only on the border, its members are becoming increasingly active within Turkey itself." More here.
FT’s Philip Stephens writes that the United States is being asked to fight on both sides of Syria’s civil war. "Even by the outlandish standards of the Middle East this looks a bizarre proposition." You can read his op-ed here.
The Atlantic pulls 32 photos of the battle for Kobani, here.
While all eyes are on Kobani, the group is making serious gains in Iraq. The WaPo’s Erin Cunningham from Baghdad: "A win for the Islamic State in Anbar province would give the militants control of one of the country’s most important dams and several large army installations, potentially adding to their abundant stockpile of weapons. It would also allow them to establish a supply line from Syria almost to Baghdad and give them a valuable position from which to launch attacks on the Iraqi capital." More here.
To win back support, Iraq’s government is looking to reduce Baghdad’s power. The AP’s Sameer N. Yacoub and Vivian Salama: "Now, Iraq’s new government, beleaguered by the Sunni militant onslaught over much of the country, is making a concerted effort to empower local and provincial governments. The aim is in part to draw Sunni support away from the extremists. But it is also a calculation that it is better to have a controlled decentralization of power than to see the country outright fall apart into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish fragments, as many fear." More here.
With U.S. strategy faltering in Syria and Iraq, Washington is scrutinizing President Barack Obama’s team of advisors and the White House’s extremely centralized policymaking process. A new special report yesterday from Reuters’ David Rohde and Warren Strobel said the Obama administration’s handling of Syria is emblematic of the president’s highly centralized, deliberative and often reactive foreign policy. The reporters interviewed more than 30 current and former U.S. government officials, who have served both Democratic and Republican administrations going back to President Richard Nixon.
The officials said Obama and his inner circle made three fundamental mistakes. The withdrawal of all American troops from neighboring Iraq and the lack of a major effort to arm Syria’s moderate rebels, they say, gave Islamic State leeway to spread. Internal debates focused on the costs of U.S. intervention in Syria, while downplaying the risks of not intervening. And the White House underestimated the damage to U.S. credibility caused by Obama’s making public threats to Assad and then failing to enforce them. Find the full story here.
In response to these blunders, FP’s David Rothkopf says Obama needs to "shake it up." "Obama started out with an excellent team — Panetta, Gates, and Clinton were all part of it. He had great experience at his disposal and a wide range of views … But as the indecision on Syria, on multiple Afghan reviews, on how to handle our presence in Iraq, and on countless other issues showed, there was a breakdown between generating good advice and acting on it. That breakdown can be attributed to two factors: the disproportionate influence of the people immediately around the president, the so-called bubble, and the president himself." More here.
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Who’s Where When: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is traveling in South America.
U.S. officials say the strikes against the Khorasan Group weren’t effective because earlier media reports broadcasted the United States’s intent to attack. The AP’s Ken Dilanian: "The barrage of U.S. cruise missiles last month aimed at a Syrian terrorist cell killed just one or two key militants, according to American intelligence officials who say the group of veteran al-Qaida fighters is still believed to be plotting attacks against U.S. and European targets. The strikes on a compound near Aleppo did not deal a crippling blow to the Khorasan Group, officials said, partly because many important members had scattered amid news reports highlighting their activities. Among those who survived is a French-born jihadi who fought in Afghanistan with a military prowess that is of great concern to U.S. intelligence officials now. More here.
You have to read further down to learn that it was a report from the AP’s Dilanian that officials now blame for giving the terrorist group a head’s up. HuffPo’s media reporter Michael Calderone weighs in: "It’s essential for national security reporters to rely on anonymous sources to find out what’s happening within the government. But doing so can be problematic in that those sources aren’t accountable for what they say. In this case, unnamed U.S. officials now blame news reports — and not the unnamed U.S. officials — for allowing key targets to flee." More here.
A defense official told SitRep that the military does not believe it killed Khorasan Group leader Muhsin al-Fadhli, despite earlier reports that indicated he might be dead. The official said there was some concern that news stories about the group may have telegraphed the U.S.’s next moves.
Let the rumor mill run wild — No Sign of Kim Jong-un at a big annual event in North Korea. The NYT’s Choe Sang-Hun: "Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader who has been absent from public view for more than a month, skipped an important annual ritual on Friday, a development likely to fuel further speculation about his whereabouts and even about his grip on power."
"Friday was the 69th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. Since taking over the top leadership position following the death of his father, the longtime ruler Kim Jong-il, in late 2011, Mr. Kim had marked the beginning of this important national holiday by leading top military and party officials to pay a midnight visit to the Kumsusan mausoleum in Pyongyang." More here.
Reuters’ Benjamin Kang Lim and James Pearson reported yesterday that Kim might just have a leg injury. Their report here.
For now, the Pentagon’s Ebola funding is still tied up in the Senate, but it’s likely $750 million will be made available soon. FP’s John Hudson and Kate Brannen: "The Pentagon’s request to shift $1 billion around to pay for the effort was met with resistance on Capitol Hill in mid-September, when three of the four relevant committees decided to freeze most of the funding until the Defense Department provided more information on its plans.
"… But even after the briefings from Pentagon officials, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee are still concerned. Until they are satisfied and approve of the full funds transfer, the Pentagon is still restricted in how much it can spend on its Ebola efforts." More here.
The Pentagon’s top commander in South America warns about what would happen should Ebola come to Central America. Time’s Mark Thompson with comments from Marine General John Kelly, chief of the U.S. Southern Command: "If it breaks out, it’s literally, ‘Katie bar the door,’ and there will be mass migration into the United States," Kelly said Tuesday. "They will run away from Ebola, or if they suspect they are infected, they will try to get to the United States for treatment." More here.
Options for closing Guantanamo are being drafted by the White House. The WSJ’s Carol E. Lee and Jess Bravin with the story here.
Iran says it’s under attack from ISIS. Jassem Al Salami for The Daily Beast: "Iranian political and military leaders tend to censor terrorist threats inside Iran, to bolster their reign over the country. But the ISIS threat is so bold inside Iran that even the highest officials have publicly acknowledged it. MohamdReza Rahmani Fazli, the Iranian interior minister and the highest ranking government official in charge of coordinating police and security efforts inside Iran, issued a warning on September 7 saying ‘Daesh’-a pejorative term for ISIS-‘is posed to attack Iran imminently.’" More here.
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says in his new book that he might have spoken too candidly to a columnist when he suggested Israel might launch a preemptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio: "Panetta’s confession about his conversation with [Washington Post columnist David Ignatius] reveals another often-hidden side of Washington policy making: how officials use favored journalists to promote their views while concealing the source of the information or opinion." More here.
As Britain grapples with what to do about citizens returning from Syria, a prominent terrorism case raises more questions than answers. Ruth Michaelson for FP here.
Reuters’ Feisal Omar with an update on al Shabaab following the death of the terrorist group’s leader, Ahmed Godane, who was killed in a U.S. missile strike in September. More here.
House Dems finalize a sweeping defense acquisition reform plan. Defense News’ John Bennett: "A moderate US House Democratic group is pushing a sweeping overhaul of the Pentagon’s acquisition system, but a key member says incremental changes are most likely." More here.
Republicans are using worldwide turmoil to attack Democrats ahead of the midterms next month. The NYT’s Jeremy Peters: "Republicans believe they have found the sentiment that will tie Congressional races together with a single national theme. The National Republican Congressional Committee is running ads warning that terrorists are streaming across the Mexican border." More here.
Retired Adm. James Stavridis, now dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, with five recommendations for America’s new Arctic ambassador here.
SIGAR sent a letter to Hagel yesterday detailing the serious failure of the G.222 aircraft program for the Afghan Air Force. Stars and Stripes’ Travis J. Tritten: "Most of the C-27 transport aircraft given to the Afghanistan military as part of a failed $486 million Defense Department program were locally scrapped for just $32,000, federal auditors said Thursday." More here.
And in case you missed it — FP’s Colum Lynch reported earlier this week on SIGAR’s findings about the UN’s mismanagement of funds in Afghanistan, here.
Historians are questioning the Pentagon’s 50th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam War. The NYT’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg: "The effort, which is expected to cost taxpayers nearly $15 million by the end of this fiscal year, is intended to honor veterans and, its website says, ‘provide the American public with historically accurate materials’ suitable for use in schools. But the extensive website, which has been up for months, largely describes a war of valor and honor that would be unrecognizable to many of the Americans who fought in and against it." More here.
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