The Cable

House Gives Trump More Ammo for ISIS claims

By David Francis and Adam Rawnsley Spin cycle: A new report from a House task force, formed by Republicans to investigate allegations that the U.S. Central Command had manipulated Islamic State-related intelligence in 2014 and 2015, determined that military officials presented an overly positive spin on the progress of the U.S. fight against the Islamic State. ...

WINDHAM, NH - AUGUST 06:  Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Windham High School on August 6, 2016 in Windham, New Hampshire.  (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
WINDHAM, NH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Windham High School on August 6, 2016 in Windham, New Hampshire. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

By David Francis and Adam Rawnsley

Spin cycle: A new report from a House task force, formed by Republicans to investigate allegations that the U.S. Central Command had manipulated Islamic State-related intelligence in 2014 and 2015, determined that military officials presented an overly positive spin on the progress of the U.S. fight against the Islamic State.

As FP’s Molly O’Toole reports, the findings fell short of explicitly charging the Obama administration with lying about progress against the terror group, but it gives Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump a new line of attack against his Democratic counterpart.

O’Toole: “The new evidence that the U.S. war against the Islamic State may not be going as well as the administration has claimed makes it easier for Trump to accuse Obama of intentionally misrepresenting the facts on the ground or to argue that the president was so incompetent that that he didn’t even realize that he was being misled by his commanders.”

Tell me lies: Meanwhile, Trump continues to insist that President Obama and Hillary Clinton somehow founded the Islamic State, a notion that has been debunked many times before. The GOP presidential candidate was given an opportunity to change his story by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday. Here’s their exchange.

“You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace,” Hewitt said.

“No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do,” Trump responded. “He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.”

Hewitt’s response: “But he’s not sympathetic to them,” referring to Obama. “He hates them. He’s trying to kill them.”

“I don’t care,” Trump said. “He was the founder. His, the way he got out of Iraq was that, that was the founding of ISIS, OK?”

In case you’re wondering who actually founded the Islamic State, experts agree it’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and earlier, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Trump now claims he was being “sarcastic.”

Weighing in: The United States Holocaust Museum, a federally-funded organization that typically avoids policy positions, is taking an activist stand on the Syrian civil war and the growing death toll in eastern Aleppo. As FP’s John Hudson reports, the museum is airing a video showing distressed Syrians and a Syrian-American aid worker calling for the creation of a no-fly zone or humanitarian corridor. Both proposals have been rejected by Obama for years.

Hudson: “The video titled #SaveSyria documents recent atrocities faced by Syrians in Aleppo, which is under intense bombardment by Damascus after a surprise advance by rebels last weekend.” Read his report here.

Halt and stop fire: Republican Sen. Rand Paul, citing concerns over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record in Yemen, is now exploring ways to stop a $1.15 billion weapons deal with Riyadh that would include the sale of 130 Abrams battle tanks, 20 armored vehicles, and other military equipment.

Hudson: “Paul’s pledge comes as Saudi Arabia resumed its bombardment of the Yemeni capital of Sanaa following the collapse of peace talks in Kuwait between representatives of the government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.”

According to the U.N., at least 6,400 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the conflict while more than 2.8 million have been displaced from their homes.

Paul faces an uphill battle. The main beneficiary of the deal is General Dynamics Land Systems, a massive defense contractor that wields significant clout on Capitol Hill. The State Department is also defending the proposed deal.

Breaking overnight: Five provinces in Thailand have been hit by 11 bombings in less than a day. Authorities say at least four people are dead and more than 30 are injured. It’s still not clear if the bombings are connected to each other, and no one has claimed responsibility for them.

Welcome to SitRep, where I’m filling in for Paul, who’s on a short but well-earned holiday. He’ll be back at the helm Monday. Send any tips, thoughts or national security events to paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or via Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley.

2016

We’re learning a little more about the bizarre cyber-espionage subplot of the 2016 presidential campaign from two new stories.

First, Bloomberg reports that a mysterious website, which popped up this summer, is offering documents from the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundations and emails from the private account of Gen. Philip Breedlove, a former NATO supreme allied commander. The site may be tied to the same group of Russian hackers who broke into the Democratic National Committee. Officials from Open Society say they reported a breach of their networks to the FBI back in June. The Intercept, which first reported on DC Leaks website’s offerings, confirmed that some of the published emails were, in fact, sent by Breedlove.

The Democratic party may have known about the Russian hack of its own networks for at least a year, according to Reuters. The wire service reports that intelligence officials briefed the Congressional “Gang of Eight,” which includes the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate as well as the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, in the summer of 2015, telling them that Russian government hackers were targeting the Democratic party. The briefing, however, may not have done much good.

The Islamic State

A 17-year-old British girl who fled to Syria to join the Islamic State has been killed by a Russian airstrike against the self-styled caliphate’s capital in Raqqa. ITV News spoke to Kadiza Sultana’s family and unidentified sources in Raqqa, who say she was killed when a Russian bomb hit a building where she was staying back in May. Sultana fled to Syria at the age of 15 along with two other London schoolgirls. Family members, however, say she had grown weary of life under the Islamic State’s rule and was contemplating a return home at the time of her death.

Libya

Libyan forces aligned with the country’s internationally recognized government have made progress assaulting the Islamic State’s stronghold in the city of Sirte, but there’s still more work to be done, the New York Times reports. This week, American special operations troops on the ground and warplanes in the sky helped Libyan forces kick the jihadist group out of a convention center it was using as a headquarters. Nonetheless, Libyan military commanders say Islamic State fighters still hold three other neighborhoods in the city. Fighters from the group downed a Libyan Air Force jet on Wednesday, highlighting the threat they still pose despite being besieged.

Bees

The world’s most advanced fighter jet was briefly grounded by a swarm of irritable bees earlier this summer. Honey bees from a hive on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, in Virginia, took up residence in the exhaust nozzle of an F-22 Raptor in June. Troops from the 192nd Maintenance Squadron quickly got a handle on the situation, though, calling in a local beekeeper to relocate the swarm and putting the bees to work making honey for a local beer brewer.

Technology

The Naval Research Lab is using squid teeth to make a self-healing fabric that could one day save American troops from weapons of mass destruction. Researchers at Penn State, Drexel University and the Naval Research Lab have been using chemicals found in teeth on squid tentacles to make a polyelectrolyte film that can repair itself from rips and tears. When used in special uniforms, the film could protect troops against exposure to chemical and biological weapons.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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