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.
Former acting attorney general Sally Yates will testify before a Senate subcommittee today about her discussions with the White House in January regarding former national security adviser Michael Flynn in which she warned officials that statements made by Vice President Pence and others about Flynn’s interactions with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. were inaccurate and that this could expose Flynn to potential manipulation by the Russians, Devlin Barrett and Sari Horwitz report at the Washington Post.
Former director of national intelligence James Clapper will also testify today in the first public testimony by Democratic Obama administration officials in the Senate Judiciary committee’s investigation into potential Russian interference in the presidential election. Patricia Zengerle reports at Reuters.
The Congressional investigations into Trump-Russia ties could continue into next year’s midterm election season if their sluggish start is anything to go by, write Martin Matishak and Austin Wright at POLITICO.
The Islamic State’s leader in Afghanistan Sheikh Abdul Hasib was killed by U.S. forces in a joint raid with Afghan soldiers in the country’s eastern Nangarhar province, Jessica Donati reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Afghan forces are entering numerous villages in eastern Afghanistan for the first time in many months, capitalizing on the death of Hasib in an operation on Apr. 26 during which two U.S. Army Rangers were killed “as a result of small arms fire,” Pam Constable and Sharif Walid report at the Washington Post.
Thousands of civilians were reportedly forced to flee when the Taliban captured a district in northern Afghanistan over the weekend, Ehsan Popalzai and Jay Croft report at CNN.
Pakistan said it killed 50 Afghan border troops in clashes Friday, while Afghan officials said the death toll resulting from the fighting in southern Kandahar province was actually two, as what Pamela Constable at the Washington Post calls the “hair-trigger” state of relations between the neighbors persists despite recent diplomatic efforts by Pakistan.
A joint geological survey of the villages along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border has been started by Pakistan and Afghanistan following the deadly clashes last week, the AP reports.
The U.S. is re-escalating in Afghanistan, but will “Surge 2.0” be consequential, relevant and sustainable? Or will it be “another futile chapter in an unwinnable war”? Douglas Wissing explains why the war in Afghanistan cannot be won at POLITICO MAGAZINE.
The U.S. will carefully examine the proposed de-escalation zones in Syria, but “the devil’s in the details” and there is still a lot that needs to be worked out, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said today, Phil Stewart reporting at Reuters.
The Syrian government will keep to the terms of Russia’s de-escalation zones plan as long as the rebels do, too, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said today, Reuters reporting.
The KOREAN PENINSULA
A plan to boost spending on the U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region by $8 billion over the next five years was endorsed by the Pentagon which views the plan as another way to show the U.S.’ commitment in the region in the face of an increasingly fragile situation on the Korean Peninsula, writes Gordon Lubold at the Wall Street Journal.
A fourth American was detained by North Korean officials for committing “hostile acts,” North Korean media reported yesterday, Jonathan Cheng reporting at the Wall Street Journal.
How does North Korea pay for its nuclear tests? The spree of attempted and actual online bank heists tracing back to Pyongyang accompanying the recent escalation of missile tests may indicate that cyber crooks are funding Kim Jong-un’s nukes, writes Kevin Poulsen at The Daily Beast.
ISRAEL and PALESTINE
President Trump came under increased pressure from the Israeli government to stand by pledges he made during his election campaign including moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem yesterday, days before he embarks on his trip to the Middle East, Jay Solomon writes at the Wall Street Journal.
Hamas declared Ismail Haniyeh as its new leader Saturday days after former leader Khaled Meshaal released a revised set of principles that softened the group’s stance on Israel, Rory Jones and Abu Bakr Bashir report at the Wall Street Journal.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY
The Trump administration has yet to affirm a planned arms-sales package to Taiwan, leaving lawmakers, officials and experts worrying that the president is about to break from almost four decades of commitment toward helping Taiwan provide for its own self-defense against China in another unreciprocated concession to Beijing, writes Josh Rogin at the Washington Post.
“Don’t look to the United States for hope.” When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told State Department employees that predicating U.S. foreign policy too heavily on values creates obstacles to the advancement of America’s national interests he sent a message to oppressed people everywhere, Sen. John McCain writes at the New York Times, recalling his time as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.
Iran will hit military bases inside Pakistan if the government fails to confront Sunni militants who carry out cross-border attacks, the head of the Iranian armed forces warned today, Reuters reporting.
Iran’s defense minister would advise against the “stupidity” of Saudi Arabia attacking or invading Iran as was suggested by Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman in an interview last week, he said today, warning that doing so would leave nothing in Saudi Arabia “except Mecca and Medina,” the two holy cities. Nasser Karimi reports at the AP.
Two Iraqi soldiers were killed when Islamic State militants attacked a base near the northern city of Kirkuk yesterday before U.S.-led forces launched airstrikes to repel the assault, the AP reports.
The Supreme Court was asked to intervene in the military trial of the man accused of orchestrating the USS Cole bombing using accounts of his torture extracted from declassified documents and an interrogator’s memoirs, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.
President Trump might release detainees currently held at Guantánamo Bay despite legislation that prevents transfer of prisoners, report Carol Rosenberg and Franco Ordonez at the Miami Herald.
The MUSLIM BAN
Trump’s revised travel ban will be tested in a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., today, Carrie Johnson anticipating the arguments at NPR.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov will both attend this week’s meeting of the Arctic Council in Alaska, imbuing the usually unremarkable event with extra significance at a time of increased geopolitical tensions, writes Simon Nixon at the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. and Philippine troops began smaller-scale annual joint exercises today, changes to the usual exercises directed by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who has been taking an antagonistic stance toward the U.S. while increasing security ties with China and Russia, the AP reports.
Eighty-two of the almost 300 Chibok schoolgirls taken by Boko Haram in Nigeria three years ago were freed in exchange for as many as six detained militants yesterday, Dionne Searcey reports at the New York Times.
The U.N. envoy to Yemen is on a new regional tour to press for the revival of Yemen’s peace talks, stalled since late last year, Al Arabiya reports.
The Colombian government-FARC peace deal seems to have legalized the rebels’ “thuggery,” and neither the U.N. nor the Santos government seems worried about their failure to turn in their arms, Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes at the Wall Street Journal.