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News Roundup and Notes: October 8, 2013

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

U.S. raids

On the operation in Somalia over the weekend, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little stated yesterday [DoD]:

While the operation did not result in Ikrima’s capture, U.S. military personnel conducted the operation with unparalleled precision and demonstrated that the United States can put direct pressure on al-Shabaab leadership at any time of our choosing.

The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung reports that U.S. forces backed off in the Somalia raid in accordance with “restrictive counterterrorism guidelines” signed by President Obama earlier this year that authorize lethal force only when there is a “near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed.” Thus, according to officials, the commander of the operation chose not to call in a U.S. airstrike as there were too many women and children in the al-Shabaab compound. A strike would also have “defeated a primary purpose of the mission: to capture, not kill, [Ikrima].” Pentagon’s George Little also confirmed the decision to “avoid civilian casualties” when speaking to CNN (Barbara Starr and Holly Yan).

The Washington Post (Sudarsan Raghavan and Colum Lynch) has more on the target in Somalia, Ikrima, a “senior operative…who has tried to expand the reach of the al-Qaeda-linked militia into Kenya.” The Wall Street Journal (Heidi Vogt) notes that the attack in Somalia demonstrates the resilience of al-Shabaab. And BBC reports that following the U.S. raid, the terrorist organization has sent reinforcements to Barawe, according to local residents.

As for Abu Anas al-Liby, who was seized by forces in Libya, U.S. officials said yesterday that he is currently being held on board a Navy ship and being questioned by the U.S. High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (Reuters’ Mark Hosenball and Phil Stewart). In response to the U.S. operation, militants in Libya are calling for the kidnapping of American citizens and the damaging of gas pipelines to Europe (Reuters).

The Washington Post’s Ernesto Londoño and New York Times’ Carlotta Gall have more on alleged al-Qaeda operative al-Liby. And NBC News (Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube) reports that the U.S. has placed a quick-strike Marine task force on high alert following Saturday’s raid.

The Washington Post editorial board argues that the “operations were legal and justified, in our view, even if they incurred some risks.” However, the editorial notes that as U.S. operations move further away from “Afghanistan and the original al-Qaeda cadre,” the administration needs to update the AUMF in order to provide “more explicit authority for operations in places such as Libya and Somalia.”

Alex Vines questions whether the U.S. has learned from its previous counter-terrorism mistakes in Africa and writes that remembering the “lessons learned from Somalia and Libya about the unintended consequences of non-intervention and intervention is important” in the effort to successfully combat terrorism in the region [CNN].

Government shutdown

While more than 300,000 civilian employees of the Pentagon are now back to work, The Hill (Jeremy Herb and Erik Wasson) notes that “much of the intelligence community not under the Defense Department remains furloughed,” which could undermine national security according to DNI James Clapper last week.

Richard Haass argues that the “greatest threat to American national security comes from within – from our own political dysfunction” [Politico]. He writes about the impact of the shutdown on foreign policy, U.S. reputation, and political disorder abroad.

The New York Times (Jane Perlez and Joe Cochrane) reports that in President Obama’s absence, China’s President, Xi Jinping was left as the “dominant leader” at yesterday’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting. And Al Jazeera America (Massoud Hayoun) reports that some analysts have called the President’s move a “diplomatic disaster” and “grossly irresponsible.”

Surveillance

Siobhan Gorman covers the repeated electronic failures at the new NSA data-storage center in Utah that has delayed the center’s opening for a year and “destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of machinery” [Wall Street Journal].

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has demanded an explanation from Canada over revelations of spying on Brazil’s mining and energy ministry, calling it “unacceptable between countries that are supposed to be partners” [New York Times’ Simon Romero and Ian Austen].

Syria

Yesterday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon submitted a 10-page report to the UN Security Council providing detail on the plan for the disarmament process in Syria. In the report, he proposed the establishment of an OPCW-UN Joint Mission and indicated that the team in Syria would expand to “approximately 100 personnel.” The New York Times (Rick Gladstone) and Washington Post (Colum Lynch) have more on this story.

In a series of Tweets earlier this morning, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the disarmament process in Syria:

…but expressed concern about extremist groups within the Syrian opposition:

Egypt

The clashes between Egypt’s military-backed regime and the Islamist opposition continued to escalate yesterday, with a “refusal by either side to back down” [New York Times’ David Kirkpatrick].

The Financial Times’ Borzou Daragahi warns, in light of the most recent burst of violence between the regime and the opposition, that the “conflict may derail Egypt from a democratic path.”

Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai told reporters yesterday that he would convene a national forum to scrutinize plans for a bilateral agreement with the U.S. [Wall Street Journal’s Nathan Hodge]. The proposed deal would allow a limited U.S.-led military force to conduct counterterrorism operations from Afghanistan after the coalition mandate expires at the end of 2014.

And in an interview with the BBC (Yalda Hakim), Karzai criticized NATO, stating:

On the security front the entire NATO exercise was one that caused Afghanistan a lot of suffering, a lot of loss of life, and no gains because the country is not secure.

Other developments

North Korea has issued a warning to the U.S. of a “horrible disaster”, and put its army on high alert, over a joint naval drill involving a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft as well as South Korean and Japanese vessels, reports Al Jazeera.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is the latest to express concern over Turkey’s likely decision to sign a missile defense deal with a Chinese firm subject to U.S. sanctions, which was noted in last week’s News Roundup [Asharq Al-Awsat]. Turkey is yet to make a final decision. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that China has dismissed concerns, with a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman stating that the U.S. and others “should not politicize normal commercial competition.”

Politico (Josh Gerstein) reports that a coalition of civil liberties and religious groups have called upon President Obama to kick start the process of closing down Guantanamo Bay, following four months of inaction since Obama’s promise to restart the process.

The latest update from a Kenyan official is that six people have now been identified for their involvement in the terrorist attack in Nairobi [CNN’s Nima Elbagir and Lilian Leposo].

The New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren covers the “conciliatory tone” of the rare meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and a group of Israeli politicians yesterday.

The Associated Press reports on continued violence in Iraq, with yesterday’s wave of bombings leaving at least 45 people dead.

France 24 (Joseph Bamat) covers an al-Qaeda document that was meant to serve as a blueprint for setting up a jihadist state in northern Mali.

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is Assistant Editor at Just Security. Follow her on Twitter @RParekh88.