Situation Report: U.K.-born Islamic State hacker hit; Israel strikes Hamas; Pakistan steps up nuke game; Americans fighting alongside Kurds; and lots more
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley Remember Pakistan’s nukes? While the world has remained focused on the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, a new report shows that Pakistan has been steadily building its nuclear capabilities, as well. The country is likely building as many as 20 nuclear warheads annually, and if it keeps going ...
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley
Remember Pakistan’s nukes? While the world has remained focused on the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, a new report shows that Pakistan has been steadily building its nuclear capabilities, as well. The country is likely building as many as 20 nuclear warheads annually, and if it keeps going at this rate, it could boast the world’s third-largest nuclear stockpile within a decade.
Islamabad has amassed a large stockpile of highly enriched uranium over the years, which could allow it to rapidly produce a number of low-yield nuclear devices, a report due out Thursday by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center concludes. The news should be sobering for Pakistan’s neighbor and chief rival India, which is slightly behind Pakistan in the number of nuclear warheads it possesses. Most analysts peg Pakistan’s arsenal at about 120 nuclear warheads, while India has about 100. Overall, Pakistan is on pace to be able to field 350 nuclear weapons in the next 10 years, the report concludes.
Denial of service. A 21-year old British hacker who had joined the Islamic State is believed to have been killed in a drone strike in Syria. Junaid Hussain, who took the name Abu Hussain al-Britani after he fled to Syria after being released from a British prison in 2013, was a key figure in the Islamic State’s so-called “Cyber Caliphate.” While living in the U.K., Junaid was part of the Team Poison hacker collective, where he was able to unlock and publish information from the address book of former Prime Minister Tony Blair. The operation got him a six-month prison sentence, after which he left the U.K. for Syria. There have been reports that Hussain was one of the key players in taking over the U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube pages back in January, using the sites to post pro-Islamic State messages.
Internal struggles at the U.N. FP’s Colum Lynch gets the exclusive details on infighting at the United Nations’ internal corruption watchdog, which has been marred by scandal and corruption. The U.N. Investigations Division, has “grown so consumed by interoffice backbiting and score-settling,” director Carman Lapointe reportedly told her superiors in closed door meetings, “that she wanted to shut it down and rebuild it from scratch.”
Frequent flyers. These are not the foreign fighters you’re used to. A motley crew of Texans, Iraq War vets, evangelicals, and bored young American men–and one woman– have flocked to northern Iraq to help the Kurds fight to take down the Islamic State’s caliphate, a new report finds. An investigation by Bellingcat, released Wednesday, takes the first systematic look at these “other foreign fighters,” which number about 108 U.S. citizens.
While about 200 American citizens are thought to have either traveled or attempted to travel to Iraq and Syria to fight with the Islamic State, these other Americans, Bellingcat researchers found through an analysis of their social media accounts and other online footprints, “were almost all male, tended to be in their 20s and 30s, and stayed on the battlefield mostly between one and four months,” FP contributor Adam Rawnsley reports.
Another good morning to you from the SitRep HQ, where we’re working to keep the copy flowing in the late summer crunch. As always, we’re interested in any tips, notes, or otherwise interesting bits of information that you may have at your disposal. Please pass them along to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley.
Almost 20 years ago, the Iranian-backed Saudi Hezbollah terrorist group detonated a truck bomb at the Khobar Towers housing complex, killing 19 U.S. Air Force service members, according to the FBI. On Wednesday, Saudi authorities announced that they arrested Ahmed al-Mughassil, the man allegedly responsible for masterminding the attack. Saudi officials say al-Mughassil traveled to Lebanon from Iran two weeks ago, where he was detained in Beirut and later transferred to Saudi territory.
The Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebels seeking to split from the country’s rule are attempting to implement a ceasefire, following a recent flare-up in fighting between the two sides, according to Reuters. The goal is to end the current round of clashes starting on September 1. The two sides had previously agreed to a ceasefire brokered with the help of European and Russian diplomats back in February, but the agreement began to unravel almost immediately following continuing violence between the two sides.
The United States and a host of European allies are taking to the Black Sea this week to kick off a new training program called Sea Breeze, focusing efforts on honing maritime skills such as anti-submarine warfare and search and rescue. The guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook will take part in the 11-nation exercise, while a land portion of the exercise will be run out of the Ukrainian city of Odessa. The city became the Ukrainian navy’s new HQ after it was kicked out of the Crimean city of Sevastopol when Russia annexed the territory last year.
The Defense Department is looking to start investing in the development of cargo-carrying drones for use in the Pacific region, National Defense Magazine reports. The funding will come out of the Defense Department’s operational energy capability improvement fund, which looks for way to improve energy efficiency and cut costs. Cargo drones hold the promise of delivering cargo with greater efficiency than the current network of allies and contractors, which the Defense Department relies on to move its gear around the region, officials contend.
Suicide bombers from the Islamic State killed two Iraqi generals commanding the fight against the group on the frontlines in Ramadi on Thursday, killing the men with an vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. The Associated Press says an Iraqi military statement identifies the two officers as Maj. Gen. Abdul-Rahman Abu-Regheef, deputy chief of operations in Anbar, and Brig. Gen. Sefeen Abdul-Maguid, commander of the 10th Army Division.
France’s intelligence services are warning airlines that jihadists could be planning to attack a passenger jet with an anti-tank missile or carry out a 9/11-style hijacking, according to The Daily Telegraph. Sources told the paper that anti-tank missiles from Libya have now made their way to France through smugglers and the black market. French President Francois Hollande also warned that more violence was likely in the wake of the attempted train attack last week stopped by three American servicemen and a French citizen, saying that Islamist terrorist groups are “determined to intensify” their campaign of violence in France.
The Taliban has captured the district headquarters in Musa Qala in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, according to the BBC. NATO forces had taken the town back from the Taliban in 2007, but the group has since expanded its control of the province.
The Israel Air Force hit a Hamas site in the Gaza Strip on Thursday morning, responding to a rocket launched from Gaza earlier in the day that struck Israeli territory. No damage or injuries were reported in Israel. A statement by the Israel Defense Forces said that the site was targeted since Israel considers Hamas as the “sole accountable party to what transpires in the Gaza Strip.”
Members of Congress, White House officials, and the Secretary of Defense receive thousands of letters and emails every day from concerned citizens, but very few of which ever amount to much. That said, it’s rare for one of those letter writers to go tell the Washington Post that they knew their letter wouldn’t change anything, anyway.
That’s the case of retired U.S. Navy Admiral Leon “Bud” Edney, former vice chief of naval operations, who gathered 200 fellow retired generals and admirals to sign a letter to Congressional leaders warning against voting for the deal with Iran to halt its nuclear program. While Edney thinks it’s a bad deal, “I don’t think this letter will sway anything,” he said. “It’s just the opinion of people who have served their country. It’s an alternative view to what I consider a very weak letter put out by the administration implying generals and admirals support this agreement. But I don’t think it will have any impact.”
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