Beyond the Wire - 27 JUL 17
July 27, 2017
Your daily briefing on the state of the world and the state of the art for all things Transnational Threats.
Congress’ effort to restrict U.S. data collection.
Adam Klein explains how some members of congress are proposing to amend Section 702, a law passed in 2008, that allows the intelligence community to collect information on foreign targets without a warrant when their communications touch U.S. internet infrastructure. Congress is seeking to ensure that the intelligence community obtains a warrant, based on probable cause, before collecting information under Section 702. Klein explains that these “database checks are most useful at the early stages of an inquiry, when officials are seeking to determine whether a person of interest has connections to terrorists.” (TNT Comment: There is often insufficient evidence to obtain a warrant at the stage which Klein identifies, thus, the new proposals by Congress must strike a balance between civil liberties and the limitations which would render this program largely ineffective.)
Hay’at Tahrir al Sham’s changing ambitions in Syria.
Hassan Hassan asserts that al Qaeda-linked Hay’at Tahrir al Sham failed to gain control of Syria’s rebel groups through integration and has reverted to degrading its rivals and absorbing their defectors. Hassan explains that, like the Islamic State, HTS seeks to “establish themselves as the only conduit of Sunni militarism,” doing so by “ensuring no internal rebellion emerges from the areas it currently controls.” (TNT Comment: Al Qaeda’s efforts to rebrand and consolidate moderate Sunnis under its wing have failed. As Hassan notes, the effort to shed the AQ brand name also occurred in Iraq in 2006 when AQI dissolved itself into the Mujahedeen Shura Council. Like al Qaeda’s rebranding in Syria, this effort also largely failed to garner Sunni support.)
Growing conservatism in Bangladesh and the government’s inadequate response.
Per Michael Kugelman, the Bangladeshi government has sought to counter hardline Islamists groups by appeasing them and acquiescing to their agenda. This dangerous policy, as Kugelman states, “portend[s] the possibility of assaults on Bangladesh’s secular traditions.” (TNT Comment: Kugelman asserts that the growing divide between hardline Islamists and secularists in Bangladesh could explode into conflict that would be “ripe for exploitation by forces loyal to ISIS and AQIS.” Like Indonesia and the Philippines, this delicate balance may be further threatened by returning fighters from Iraq and Syria as ISIS’ territory dwindles.)
Taliban displays its strength in numerous Afghan districts. The districts of Taywara, Kohistan, and Jani Khel, fell under control of Taliban forces over the last week. The districts, all located in different regions of Afghanistan, show the breadth of Taliban influence across the country. (RCF)
26 Afghan soldiers killed in Taliban attack. The latest in a string of successful Taliban attacks killed 24 soldiers at an Afghan military base in Kandahar. (BBC)
Islamic State will continue to threaten Middle East stability. Writing in Lawfare blog, Daniel Byman discusses the potential long-term threat the Islamic State poses to the entire Middle East region, addressing the groups exploitation of sectarian tension and nation-state instability. (Lawfare)
Cease-fire reached between Hezbollah and Nusra Front. After several days of fighting in the Lebanese border town of Arsal, Hezbollah fighters and Nusra Front militants agreed to a cease-fire after the militants “effectively lost” most of their territory. (Reuters)
Libyan government fears Islamic State resurgence. The U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) believes that Islamic State fighters are regrouping in the countryside in an effort to launch attacks on the port city of Misrata. (Al Jazeera)
U.S. SOF increases its presence in Africa. Amid the growing threat from various militant groups in Africa, U.S. Special Operations forces continue to expand the size and scope of its operations. (Cipher Brief)
The danger posed by the new ‘Silk Road.’ A new report by the International Crisis Group examines the potential drawbacks of the new Silk Road, addressing the issue of China and Russia’s divergent goals that could lead to instability and conflict throughout the region. (ICG)
Suspected jihadist attack in Mali. Four civilians were killed in northeast Mali in a suspected attack by Islamic State linked jihadists. (News 24)
Islamic State announces new affiliate in Kashmir. The Islamic State appointed Zakir Musa, a Kashmiri militant, as the head of a new cell located in Himalayan territory of Kashmir. (Guardian)
Ukraine government cuts power in separatist-held Donetsk. Citing unpaid bills, the Ukrainian government cut electrical service to Donetsk, a stronghold for Russian separatists. (DW)
In the Weeds
More on Afghanistan
Taliban claim they killed three US Marines in night time assault on Afghan National Security base (Independent)
Trump’s crude view of Afghanistan won’t solve U.S.’s longest-running war (WaPo)
What would happen if the United States totally disengaged from Afghanistan? (WaPo)
Michèle Flournoy on Afghanistan: "Nobody's gonna win this on the battlefield" (CBS)
More on Syria
US tells local Syrian allies they must only fight ISIS and not Assad, prompting exit of allied group (CNN)
Russia to stay in Syria for another half a century as Putin signs air base deal with Assad regime (Independent)
ISIS is rapidly losing control of Raqqa, its headquarters in Syria (USA Today)