Beyond the Wire - 30 MAY 2017
May 30, 2017
Your daily briefing on the state of the world and the state of the art for all things Transnational Threats.
United States to shift strategy against Islamic State.
Per SecDef Mattis the previous strategy of liberating territory and forcing the Islamic State to flee will be replaced with one designed around ‘annihilating’ Islamic State fighters. The strategy shift is meant to prevent foreign fighters within the Islamic State from fleeing to safe havens or attempting to return home to Africa, Europe, or Asia. (TNT Comment: An annihilation strategy in Raqqa and Mosul is appropriate, but is unlikely to eradicate the Islamic State as many of the group’s leaders and skilled fighters have already departed for more secure locations like Deir ez Zor.)
Marawi remains under siege from Islamic State loyalists.
In an attempt to establish a local caliphate, Islamic State fighters continue battle Philippine soldiers to control Marawi, a city northwest of Davao. Reports indicate that Islamic State fighters are beginning to execute citizens who are unable to recite Muslim prayers and are preventing thousands of civilians who remain in the city from leaving. President Rodrigo Duterte has imposed martial law in an attempt to quell the fighting. (TNT Comment: The attack on Marawi illuminates the growing threat from Islamic State-aligned jihadist groups across Southeast Asia as Islamic State controlled territory in the Middle East disappears.)
Al Qaeda remains the largest threat to the United States.
With the Islamic State receiving much of the attention in Afghanistan, including several high-profile airstrikes and ground raids, the U.S.-led coalition is once again at risk of focusing its attention on the wrong enemy, according to South Asia scholar Michael Kugelman. (TNT Comment: As Beyond the Wire has noted, the Taliban and al Qaeda have quietly rebuilt their ranks and spread throughout Afghanistan as the C-ISIL coalition focuses on dismantling the Islamic State. The result may be a more active al Qaeda, perhaps led by Osama bin Laden’s son and heir apparent, Hamza bin-Laden.)
Egyptian airstrikes hit militant camps in Libya. Speaking alongside Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry commented Egypt’s strikes were in “full coordination with the Libyan National Army”, a force reportedly backed by the Russian government. (Reuters)
U.S. drone strike kills Pakistani Taliban operatives. The strike in North Waziristan purportedly targeted the inner circle of Akhtar Muhammad Khalil, the TTP’s commander in North Waziristan. (LWJ)
Iran-Saudi dialogue needed, but not sought. An op-ed in Lawfare argues that to quell conflicts in the Middle East, it is necessary to target the proxy competition that exacerbates them. (Lawfare)
Senators Kaine, Flake introduce bill updating 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). Lawfare discusses the new bill considering previous attempts to update the 60 words that allow for nearly all U.S. counterterrorism targeting. (Lawfare)
Toll road between Baghdad and Amman stirs Iran. The U.S.-run project was designed to bring jobs to Anbar Province, but may serve to combat spreading Iranian influence. (NYT)
Attack in Peshawar kills Hezb-i-Islami former secretary. The unclaimed killing comes amid Hezb-i-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s return to the region earlier this month. (Al Jazeera)
Taliban killing religious leaders who question their legitimacy. Renewed attacks on scholars could be due to the new Taliban leader’s religious ideology, which is said to be harder line than his predecessor. Another reason? “The reason these ulema are getting targeted is because they tell the truth — and the truth is that the ongoing fighting is just for power,” per an Ulema Council official in Helmand. (New York Times)
Base defense concepts blamed for successful Boko Haram attack. The commander of the Nigerian Air Force, Olatokunbo Adesanya, blamed the success of recent Boko Haram attacks on base commander’s inability to “adopt the tenets of the new base defense concepts.” (Vanguard)
French Forces hunt French Nationals fighting with Islamic State. In an attempt to track down French nationals fighting with the Islamic State, French Special Forces are providing the Iraqi army with the names and pictures of French foreign fighters. (WSJ)
Syrian government wants Iran to pay Shia militiamen. By controlling the Shia militiamen, Iran stands to expand its influence in Syria, potentially exacerbating sectarian tensions.(VOA)