Threat Information Office Headlines 9-28-15
Taliban seizes Kunduz, Islamic State Launches attacks
The Taliban carried out one of the most serious security breaches in the 14 years of war yesterday, seizing the city of Kunduz, in Northern Afghanistan. Taliban forces reportedly freed hundreds of prisoners from a local jail, and forced Afghan forces to abandon their provincial headquarters. Videos reportedly show Taliban forces raising their flag over the city, while others show what is purported to be seized military equipment, including Humvees and tanks. The attack shows that the Taliban continues to achieve battlefield successes following the death of leader Mullah Omar last July.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State has been strengthening its insurgency against Afghanistan, launching a major attack on Afghan security forces yesterday, though IS has since been forced to retreat. Apprehensions are growing amongst plans to reduce US presence in Afghanistan, which will inevitably face increased pressure by the Taliban and other rebels, following U.S. withdrawal. Though the US international commander in Afghanistan has sent recommendations and risk assessment to the Pentagon and NATO, the Pentagon has not yet released any recommendations on how to modify the current strategy.
16 Turkish workers abducted September 2, 2015 in Baghdad reportedly released
One month after being kidnapped just outside Baghdad, 16 Turkish workers have been released, according to a recent online video, purportedly shot by the kidnappers. The kidnappers had previously communicated by online, with a video showing armed men shouting Shi’ite Muslim slogans capturing the workers serving as the initial evidence of the abduction.
On September 5th, the Iraqi military raided the Baghdad HQ of the Iranian-linked Katib Hezbollah over the abduction but the militia group denies its involvement and there has been no official confirmation of the identities of the kidnappers. The release of the hostages followed a deal to safely extract Syrian Shi’ite villagers who had been blockaded by Turkey-supported rebels.
Baghdad has struggled to contain the Shi’ite militias that make up the Popular Mobilization forces, which Iraq relies heavily upon in its fight against Islamic State.
Kurdistan Regional Government announces inability to respond to humanitarian crisis
The Kurdistan Regional Government has announced that “without a significant increase in funding from the international community and financial transfers from the Government of Iraq, the Kurdistan Region will not be able to contain the humanitarian crisis, and faces exceedingly dire consequences.” KRG says they have been unable to maintain public services and provide basic needs for IDP’s, as the government of Iraq has been withholding 17% of their share of the annual budget.
The (KRG) has been dealing with a humanitarian crisis due to the influx of Iraqi refugees as well as Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). A World Bank report revealed that prices and unemployment have increased, while wages are decreasing due to refugees entering the labor market, and the Islamic State’s insurgency has been disrupting supply and transportation routes.
Historically the KRG has been anxious to highlight its role in supporting refugees and IDPs, particularly Christians and Yezidis, as part of its effort to win support from Western governments.
US Intel: Russian strikes in Syria imminent
A US intelligence assessment of the Russian deployment to Syria suggest a Kremlin project is under way to establish Syria as a satellite state by providing military dominance. The analysis, which was delivered to President Obama on the eve of his meeting with Vladimir Putin at the UN General Assembly, describes a Russian buildup of air forces, complemented by Russian drone surveillance flights in areas where IS presence is minimal at best. This report strongly contradicts Putin’s claim that Russian intervention in Syria is aimed at helping to combat the Islamic State.
The Russian Air Force deployment of surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles can be interpreted as a pre-emptive move to possible Western intervention to topple Assad, as the IS has no air force. While the US and Russia agree to talks in order to determine the degree of cooperation in Syria, as well as to avoid incidents, Russian air force planes continued to land in Syria over the past week, casting doubt on Putin’s intentions in the Levant.
New Chinese air-to-air missile has US Air Force concerned
As Chinese President Xi Jinping wraps up his US state visit and addresses the UN General Assembly, there is increasing concern in the American military over China’s expanding arsenal. USAF Air Combat Commander Gen. Herbert Carlisle noted last week that China’s PL-15 air-to-air missile is on par with the AIM-120, the USAF’s most advanced tactical aerial weapon. While the range and strike capability may be similar, it is the amount of missiles that may be loaded on a Chinese fighter jet that causes concern in the Pentagon. According to the article in The Daily Beast:
“China’s J-11 fighters—versions of the iconic Russian Flanker jet—could, with upgrades, haul as many as 12 missiles the size of the PL-15, plus two smaller missiles, for a staggering 14 weapons in total.
By comparison, the U.S. Air Force’s top-of-the-line F-22 in its normal configuration carries a maximum of six AIM-120 missiles and two shorter-range Sidewinders.”
While China continues its aggressive posture in the South China Sea and engages in constant cyber attacks against US targets, it is crucial to develop a coherent strategy to counter their expanding military capacity.
Son of US Army psychiatrist sentenced for terrorism recruiting in Texas
American-born son of a US Army doctor Rahatul Ashikim Khan was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison for his active recruiting on online message boards on behalf of the Islamic State. Court records also show that he led a group in Austin, Texas, who pledged loyalty to former Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Arrested as he was about to board a plane in Houston to join IS, Khan was active in the “Authentic Tauheed” (“Oneness”) website chat room, where he encouraged others to wage jihad overseas.
Along with associate Michael Wolfe and similar cases in Miami and Chicago, the cases point to a growing trend towards radicalization among a subset of American Muslims, where technology facilitates the networking and plotting for jihad both here and abroad.
Other stories we’re following: