Situation Report: Clinton and Libya; FP exclusive: Green Beret given extension on removal case; former CIA spook no Trump fan; ISIS hits Baghdad; Mosul Dam on the brink; and lots more
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley Clinton at war. Hillary Clinton has said that her 2002 vote that opened the door for war in Iraq was a “mistake,” and one that went a long way toward her losing her party’s nomination for president in 2008. Nonetheless, in 2011 Clinton was one of the strongest voices ...
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley
Clinton at war. Hillary Clinton has said that her 2002 vote that opened the door for war in Iraq was a “mistake,” and one that went a long way toward her losing her party’s nomination for president in 2008. Nonetheless, in 2011 Clinton was one of the strongest voices in the Obama administration pushing for U.S. intervention in Libya to overthrow strongman Muammar Qaddafi, urging the president to add American warplanes to the European force that backed the rebels with air power. Clinton even pushed “for a secret American program that supplied arms to rebel militias, an effort never before confirmed,” the New York Times reports in a major two-part look at her role in the war, and how it may offer a glimpse into her temperament when it comes to big foreign-policy decisions.
Exclusive: Green Beret given more time. The U.S. Army has granted itself another extension to decide if it will remove Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland from the service, Foreign Policy has learned.
Back in 2011, Martland, along with fellow Green Beret Capt. Daniel Quinn, roughed up a local Afghan police commander in Kunduz after their superiors allegedly ignored reports that the police commander repeatedly raped a boy he kept chained to his bed. Quinn has since left the Army, but Martland is fighting to stay in despite the service’s attempts to discharge him. In October, then-Army Secretary John McHugh agreed to postpone Martland’s discharge until the soldier could file an appeal. Originally, the Army had until March 1 to decide whether he can remain in the service, but now he has until May 1 to plead his case, and remain on active duty.
Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Jennifer R. Johnson emailed SitRep that the “extension was granted to allow consideration of his application to correct his records by the Army Board for Correction of Military Records.” In English, this means that Martland’s attempts to have his record corrected over the Kunduz incident are essentially being given another hearing. Martland claims that despite the Afghan’s claims that he beat him up, all the U.S. soldiers did was roughly remove him from their shared base.
Attacks. The Islamic State conducted a series of spectacular attacks in Iraq on Sunday, killing dozens at a market in Baghdad and assaulting security forces on the edge of the city. The attacks show that despite being under increasing pressure by coalition aircraft and Iraqi forces, the terrorist group is still more than capable of reaching into the country’s capital city. Overall, six car bombs detonated in Abu Ghraib, and a double suicide bombing hit the Shiite district of Sadr City, killing at least 28 people.
The deluge. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad dropped a pretty sobering warning on Sunday, saying the Mosul Dam in northern Iraq “faces a serious and unprecedented risk of catastrophic failure with little warning.” Stories about the dam have been circulating for some time, and earlier this month, FP’s Keith Johnson wrote up a bit about how the dam has “been considered a ticking time bomb. Constructed on top of gypsum, limestone, and other minerals that dissolve when in contact with water, the dam has been plagued by the threat of collapse since even before it began operations.”
But the war with the Islamic State has caused the Iraqi government to fall behind on the daily repairs the dam needs to function, putting the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis at serious risk. If the dam failed, the ISIS-held city of Mosul would face a wave of water almost 80 feet high within hours, while Baghdad itself — 400 miles downriver — would get hit with about 13 feet of water in the center of the city.
Before the court. It’s safe to say that the plan President Barack Obama recently unveiled to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and transfer dozens of detainees to the United States for eventual trial, didn’t find much support on Capitol Hill. But two cases coming before U.S. courts of men accused of supporting the Islamic State will be a real test for how terrorism cases are handled in domestic courts, the Wall Street Journal reports.
No order. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said during an interview Friday that if Republican front-runner Donald Trump won the presidency, U.S. troops would and should reject some of the ideas the candidate has been trumpeting on the campaign trail. Appearing on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Hayden said, “I would be incredibly concerned if a President Trump governed in a way that was consistent with the way that candidate Trump expressed during the campaign.” When Maher asked about Trump’s promise to go after the families of ISIS members, Hayden responded, “God, no! Let me give you a punchline: If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act.” Asked how that was possible, Hayden explained, “you are not required, in fact you’re required to not follow an unlawful order.”
Here we go on another week of SitRep, and thanks for clicking on through. As always, if you have any thoughts, announcements, tips, or national security-related events to share, please pass them along to SitRep HQ! Best way is to send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley.
The recently-inked cessation of hostilities in Syria has cut down dramatically on the fighting as its enters its third day, but rebels sent a letter to the United Nations Sunday alleging 26 violations of the agreement in areas. Rebels claim Russia has bombed rebel groups abiding by the truce in those 26 areas and used cluster munitions, killing civilians. Russia’s defense ministry has yet to comment on the allegations and the Syrian military denies the,
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled Israel’s approval of the ceasefire in Syria, telling reporters that an end to the bloodshed is welcome but laying down two red lines regarding Iran and its Lebanese terror group proxy, Hezbollah. Netanyahu stated that Israel would not tolerate shipments of “advanced weaponry” to Hezbollah or the establishment of a “second terror front on the Golan Heights” along the Syrian border with Israel. In the past, Israel has reportedly carried out airstrikes against illicit weapons shipments to Hezbollah originating in Syria and struck Hezbollah targets on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.
Israel’s Channel 2 carried a report on Sunday claiming that Iran is pulling all 2,500 of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fighters from Syria and leaving behind a 750-strong advisory footprint. The report comes on the heels of a recent assessment by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Tehran “pulled a significant number of troops out” of Syria.
Iraq’s Kurdistan Region Security Council is investigating reports that the Islamic State used chemical weapons near Sinjar on Thursday, Voice of America reports. Peshmerga troops there reported symptoms of nausea and vomiting following a rocket barrage from the Islamic State. Blood testing of peshmerga fighters in Iraq carried out by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has previously confirmed the use of chemical weapons by the Islamic State in Iraq.
The Taliban have either captured, or are operating in, 10 of Helmand province’s 14 districts, and are knocking at the gates of the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah. And the Afghan official who is in charge of defending the province is the same man who handed over the area to the mujahideen in 1993, later fleeing the country and spending a decade in exile in Moscow.
Iranian arms researcher Galen Wright analyzed sensor footage released by Iran showing two drone strikes carried out by an Iranian Shahed-129 UAV in Syria, geolocating the strikes to the border between Idlib and Aleppo and Halasah village near Aleppo. The drone feed footage, released on Iranian television, shows a munition from an Iranian Shahed-129 hitting a handful of men in a field as well as a house in Halasah. The strikes would mark Iran’s entrance into the growing club of countries that have used armed drones in conflict alongside Iraq, Pakistan, and Nigeria just in the past year.
Latvia is asking for a troop commitment from NATO in order to hedge against growing Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and the Baltics, USA Today reports. Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics said his country wants NATO “boots on the ground” there, along with the weaponry and equipment to go along with them. That might be a tall order for the Atlantic alliance, however, given the relatively tight defense budgets of NATO’s bigger powers. Latvia itself has increased defense spending as it worries about recent Russian mobilizations and exercises along its border with Russia.
The world’s most troubled radar blimp just got more troubled. The Los Angeles Times reports that the annual report from the Defense Department’s office of Operational Test & Evaluation says that problems with the aerostat’s software “could result in some high priority radar targets not being processed and tracked.” The recently-disclosed problem comes on the heels of an earlier report showing that the radar system, designed to track incoming missiles, had trouble finding a gyrocopter flown by a Florida man onto the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building. JLENS captured the nation’s attention in October 2015 when it broke free from its tether and blew from Maryland into rural Pennsylvania, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.
You can stop calling the Air Force’s new bomber the LRS-B (long range strike bomber) and start calling it the B-21. That’s the new name for the flying branch’s next generation stealth bomber, revealed alongside concept art for the plane on Friday by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. The bomber, a stealth flying wing design, looks much like its predecessor, the B-2 Spirit. Still missing, however, is a name for the B-21. Secretary James says she’s open to suggestions from airmen and women so send in your ideas.
Israel’s Ynetnews.com flags a picture of what’s allegedly an Israeli Searcher drone flying over Syria. The drone is believed to be one of a number of Israeli Aircraft Industries Searcher UAVs which Israel sold to Russia as part of its program to kickstart a domestic drone industry of its own. At least one Russian-owned Israeli Searcher drone, re-dubbed “Forpost” by Russia, has crashed before when it was shot down over Ukraine in the spring of 2015.