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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the weekend.
GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS – LEAKED INTELLIGENCE REPORTS
Afghanistan has become a significant coordination site for the self-styled Islamic State militant group as it plans attacks across Europe and Asia, and conducts “aspirational plotting” against the United States, according to leaked intelligence reports. The documents reveal specific efforts to target embassies, churches, business centers, and the World Cup soccer tournament. At least 15 plots by Islamic State leaders in Afghanistan have been identified as of February. Dan Lamothe and Joby Warrick report for the Washington Post.
The paramilitary organization Wagner Group aims to establish a “confederation” of anti-Western states in Africa in a bid to foment instability while bolstering Russia’s allies, according to leaked intelligence reports. Despite U.S. efforts to disrupt Wagner, it has gained strategic footholds in at least eight African countries. Greg Miller and Robyn Dixon report for the Washington Post.
GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS – SUDAN
A growing list of countries evacuated diplomats and citizens from Sudan’s capital as fierce fighting continues to rage. The U.S. yesterday announced that its diplomats had been airlifted out of Sudan. The World Health Organization says the fighting killed over 400 people and injured thousands. Laura Gozzi and Alys Davies report for BBC News.
The paramilitary organization Wagner Group has offered weapons to the paramilitary fighting the army for control of Sudan, according to U.S. officials. While Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin publicly said he wanted peace, he is intent on fueling the fighting between the two military factions in Sudan. Since 2019, Wagner has expanded its activities in Sudan, mining for gold, exploring for uranium, and supplying mercenaries to the region of Darfur. Eric Schmitt and Edward Wong report for the New York Times.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Twitter on Thursday removed labels designating global media accounts as government-controlled or funded. The move could allow propaganda from China, Russia, and other countries to be widely seen and believed. Joseph Menn reports for the Washington Post.
Australia needs to overhaul its defense, according to a government-commissioned Defense Strategic Review released today. The public version of the classified review suggests Australia needs to boost its defense budget, make its own munitions and develop the ability to strike longer-range targets as China’s military buildup challenges regional security. Rod McGuirk reports for AP News.
Disagreement between France and Germany on how to proceed with the moribund E.U.-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment further deepens the European divide on its China relationship. France views the Agreement as “less urgent” and “just not practicable,” while Germany is in favor of “reactivating” it. Beijing has proved skilled at preventing the E.U. from developing a unified China policy. Jamil Anderlini reports for POLITICO.
Syrian, Russian, and Iranian defense ministers and intelligence chiefs are set to meet in Moscow tomorrow, the Turkish state-owned Anadolu news agency has reported. The meeting comes amid efforts to rebuild Turkey-Syria ties after years of animosity during the Syrian war. Reuters reports.
Former President Trump discussed plans to access voting system software in Michigan and Georgia as part of the effort to challenge his 2020 election loss, according to the letter sent by Free Speech for People to federal officials. Trump allies ultimately succeeded in copying the elections software in those two states. Prosecutors are examining the breach of voting data in Georgia as part of a broader criminal investigation into whether Trump and his allies interfered in the 2020 presidential election there. Trump’s participation in the discussion of the Georgia plan could increase his risk of legal exposure. Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim report for the New York Times.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) on Friday agreed to an arrangement in which the former prosecutor, Mark Pomerantz, will testify before a House committee on May 12. A spokesperson for Bragg said the agreement “ensures any questioning of our former employee will take place in the presence of our General Counsel on a reasonable, agreed upon time frame.” The arrangement ends the litigation over the deposition of Pomerantz, who worked on the probe of former President Trump. Corinne Ramey reports for the Wall Street Journal.
E. Jean Carroll’s civil trial against former President Trump is set to begin this week. Carroll alleges Trump raped her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s. Corinne Ramey reports for the Wall Street Journal.
“Deterrents alone will not solve the challenge of migration,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said during an event at the Council on Foreign Relations last week. Mayorkas described desperation as the “greatest catalyst” for migration. Mayorkas’ comments come after Biden administration officials reportedly debated reinstating family detention, a much-criticized policy largely replaced by alternative policies allowing asylum-seeking families to wait out their immigration cases outside detention centers. The Biden administration is set to announce a plan for handling the end of Title 42, which is expected to increase migration at the southern border. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will arrive in the United States today to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-South Korea partnership amid growing calls from South Koreans to develop their own nuclear weapons. A recent Asan Institute for Policy Studies poll showed that more than 54% of respondents believed the United States would not risk its safety to protect South Korea. More than 64% supported South Korea developing nuclear weapons. Hyonhee Shin reports for Reuters.
Former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo was extradited from the United States yesterday to face graft charges in Peru. Prosecutors have for years sought to extradite Toledo over charges that he took a $20 million bribe from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht in exchange for contracts for a highway project connecting southern Peru to Brazil. He faces 20 years in prison. Ryan Dube reports for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – UKRAINE COUNTER-OFFENSIVE
Strategists observing the preparations for Ukraine’s “high stakes” counter-offensive say they expect the push in May or June. Mark Kimmitt, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general who commanded artillery units, has said, “With little battlefield progress and declining attention worldwide, the Ukrainians must break out of the current stalemate or face increased calls for a cease-fire and negotiations.” Daniel Michaels and James Marson report for the Wall Street Journal.
Despite deliveries of powerful Western weapons, Ukraine still falls short of what U.S. military planners have assessed Ukraine needs to retake territory captured by Russia, according to leaked intelligence reports dated February and March. While additional weapons and supplies have been delivered to Ukraine since the assessments were made, key components, like Abrams tanks, are unlikely to arrive before the counter-offensive begins. Lara Jakes and John Ismay report for the New York Times.
OTHER RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has cast doubt on Ukraine’s eventual accession into NATO, despite NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg saying on Friday that all “allies have agreed that Ukraine will become a NATO member.” Orban tweeted, “What?!” in response to Stoltenberg’s comments. Orban is less critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin than other Western leaders. Orban has also shown a willingness to oppose NATO’s expansion to include Finland and Sweden. Matt Murphy reports for BBC News.
France, Ukraine, and the Baltic states expressed dismay after China’s ambassador to France questioned the sovereignty of former Soviet countries. “Ex-Soviet countries do not have an effective status in international law because there was no international agreement to materialize their status as sovereign countries,” Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye said. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia will summon Chinese representatives to ask for clarification, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis confirmed today. Simone McCarthy reports for CNN.