Situation Report: Paris, and everything that comes after; global reax; Kurds find horrors in in Sinjar; Gitmo plan is MIA; U.S. strikes ISIS in Libya; Manilla reconsidering Subic Bay; Turkey abandons plans to buy Chinese missiles; and lots more
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley The deluge. The brutal attacks in Paris by eight gunmen thought to be affiliated with the Islamic State have rocked France, and called into question the aims and capabilities of the group which until now had focused its energies on consolidating its hold on the self-described caliphate it is ...
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley
The deluge. The brutal attacks in Paris by eight gunmen thought to be affiliated with the Islamic State have rocked France, and called into question the aims and capabilities of the group which until now had focused its energies on consolidating its hold on the self-described caliphate it is building in Iraq and Syria.
While military and intelligence officials have been concerned about new ISIS affiliates popping up in places like Afghanistan, Libya, the Sinai Peninsula, western Africa, and elsewhere, there has been little direct evidence — until recently — that strikes like Paris were part of the group’s plan. But after ISIS claimed responsibility for downing a Russian passenger jet over the Sinai last month, killing 224 people, and followed that with twin suicide bombings in a Beirut suburb, killing at least 40 and wounding about 200 more, it appears that the world may be teetering on the precipice of a bloody a new era in terrorism, FP noted over the weekend.
The hunt. French and Belgian authorities are looking for at least 20 people who may have been involved in the planning for the attacks on Paris on Friday night, when at least 132 innocent people were slaughtered while eating dinner or attending a concert at six sites across the city. Six of the eight attackers detonated their suicide belts as police closed in, one was killed in a firefight with the cops, and one — 26 year-old Salah Abdeslam, a Belgian-born French national — remains at large.
In response, France dispatched at least 10 warplanes on Sunday night to strike at the Islamic State’s headquarters in the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa, dropping at least 20 bombs, according to the French Defense Ministry. According to Syrian activists on the ground, the intense bombardment knocked out electricity and water service, and hit a variety of sites throughout the city.
The war so far. France has been involved in the air war against the Islamic State since September 2014, and according to the best estimates has launched about 280 airstrikes since then. As the New York Times notes, however, Paris only started hitting targets “inside Syria in the last seven weeks, and had carried out fewer than a half dozen bombings there before Sunday.”
But there’s new talk of increasing cooperation between Washington and Paris. FP’s Dan De Luce writes that French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke to Pentagon chief Ash Carter twice over the weekend, and “along with assisting French forces in conducting expanded airstrikes, the United States was looking ‘for additional ways to share intelligence’ with France, a Pentagon official told Foreign Policy.”
Intel. Former Deputy Director of the CIA Mike Morrell said on Face the Nation Sunday morning that the caliphate established by ISIS in Syria “is very much like a state, so what you’re seeing now is something akin to state sponsored terrorism in the west right now by ISIS.”
Appearing on the same program, New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said that the Paris attacks represent “the new paradigm” for terrorist attacks, where the attackers operate off the radar of intelligence services by communicating with encrypted smart devices. “We, in many respects, have gone blind as the result of the commercialization” of encrypted apps, he said.
Michael Leiter, who served as director of the National Counterterrorism Center under both Presidents Bush and Obama, added on Meet the Press that it’s not entirely clear what intelligence agencies should be looking for. “I think there has been a lot of warnings, and strategically, that ISIS wasn’t just going to stay in its caliphate in Syria and Iraq. I think tactically the intelligence community in France and the U.S. clearly missed this attack, they clearly missed the attack in Egypt. But I think people who have been watching terrorism for a long time knew that ISIS was never going to be satisfied staying in the Levant.”
There is mounting evidence that at least one of the eight attackers had visited Syria in the previous months, and French officials have admitted that U.S. intel authorities had passed on vague information in September warning that French jihadists in Syria were planning an attack.
Don’t forget Gitmo. Amid all of this, President Barack Obama’s plan to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is still floating somewhere between the National Security Council and the White House, without a timeline for its release. Chatter that the release was imminent picked up last week after defense and White House officials said they expected the Obama administration to deliver the document to Congress soon, likely by last Friday, FP’s Den De Luce and Paul McLeary write.
But after Friday came and went with no plan, several defense officials confirmed to FP that they’re now not sure when the plan will drop. And Sunday night, the Pentagon quietly announced that it was transferring five Yemeni detainees captured in 2001 from Gitmo to the United Arab Emirates. The move brings the number of detainees at the facility down to 107.
Good morning all, and thank you for coming aboard after what was a pretty somber weekend. But we’re back at it, and glad you’re here. Hope this is helpful. As always, if you have any thoughts, announcements, tips, or national security-related events to share, please pass them along! Best way is to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley.
Reactions to the attack
Forty-nine Syrian rebel groups issued a joint statement on Friday condemning the attacks “that oppose the heavenly laws and the human values,” according to a translation published by SITE Intel Group. The rebel groups asked the international community to align against the Assad regime, which it labeled the source of the Islamic State’s persistence.
On the other side of the Syrian conflict, both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani decried the Paris attack, with Putin urging France to join with Russia in forming an international coalition in Syria. Hezbollah, which is fighting in Syria alongside Russia and Iran on the side of the Assad regime, also issued a statement, referencing the recent attacks against a Shiite neighborhood in Beirut by the Islamic State.
Russia is apparently sensitive to the suggestion that it has deployed its advanced S-400 air defense missiles along with its forces in Syria. Britain’s Daily Mail tabloid reported last week that pictures of the Russian base in Latakia released by the country’s defense ministry showed the S-400 in the background, suggesting the pictures represented a veiled threat to Turkey and Israel. On Friday a Russian defense ministry spokesman disputed the report, labeling it “bewildering if not funny.”
Kurdish forces recaptured the northern Iraqi city of Sinjar from the Islamic State on Friday, discovering the extent of the horrors to which the jihadist group subjected the city’s residents. The Wall Street Journal reports that peshmerga forces found a mass grave filled with the bodies of women and the elderly and more evidence that hundreds if not thousands of women from Iraq’s Yazidi ethnic minority had been kidnapped and taken into slavery by the Islamic State.
The Pentagon claims that a U.S. airstrike in Derna, Libya on Friday killed Abu Nabil, the leader of the Islamic State in Libya. The Defense Department said that authorization for the strike predated Friday’s attacks by the Islamic State in Paris.
Turkey has shut down its bid to buy a $3.4 billion Chinese air defense missile system, ending a lengthy and dramatic procurement process, Reuters reports. Turkey began exploring the possibility of a Chinese-made air defense system, which raised cybersecurity and other concerns within the NATO alliance. But Turkish officials now say that they’ve abandoned the plans for a Chinese-made missile defense, citing the lack of technology transfers offered by China and suggesting Turkey will build its own system.
Boko Haram is losing territory thanks to stepped up pressure by local and international governments, but the Islamist terrorist group is still carrying out attacks, the New York Times reports. Officials at the local and national level in Nigeria cite success in taking territory from the group as the group is apparently losing the ability to seize towns. Nonetheless, Boko Haram still retains the capability to carry out bombings, as a string of recent attacks indicates.
In the 1990s, the Philippines kicked the U.S. Navy out of its Subic Bay base in a fit of nationalist and anti-colonial fervor. But as China’s territorial ambitions in the waters off the Philippines have rattled the Southeast Asian country, the Los Angeles Times reports that it is starting to warm to the U.S. Navy once again as American ships are viewed as a welcome shield.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports that North Korea might be prepping for another missile launch. The paper writes that North Korea declared a no-sail zone in the East Sea, a sign that it could carry out a missile test there. South Korean officials told Yonhap that the test could include a Scud-like ballistic missile or a submarine-launched ballistic missile.
U.S. Navy chief Adm. John Richardson says the U.S. Navy will try to close the “carrier gap” by speeding up maintenance on the ships, National Defense magazine reports. The boss promised a new “fleet response plan” which will help keep more carriers at sea providing coverage to global hotspots. The statement comes after outrage in Congress following the recent lack of a carrier strike group in the Persian Gulf.
The Air Force acquisition chief says the U.S. better sell its weapons faster or else get used to being scooped on sales by the Chinese, Breaking Defense reports. Speaking the Lexington Institute following a trip to the Dubai Airshow, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for acquisition William LaPlante told an audience that international buyers are “desperate” for U.S. weapons but that China can supply substitutes which aren’t quite as good as their American counterparts — but arrive faster. By contrast, LaPlante lamented the lengthy U.S. Foreign Military Sales process, which can take years to due overlapping levels of review.
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