waronterrorWar on Terror Watch 


LONE WOLF ATTACKS IN THE WEST: Three separate attacks by Islamic terrorists in the past month-and-a-half called attention to the growing threat of terrorist attacks by small groups of actors or "lone wolves." In December, an armed man walked into a cafe in Sydney, Australia, took hostages, and forced them to display the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)'s flag in the window. The 16-hour siege ended as police stormed the cafe, with the terrorist and two hostages dying in the operation. On January 7th, masked gunman stormed the Paris offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and killed twelve people. One of the brothers involved in the attack had traveled to Yemen in 2011 where he met with al-Qa'ida preacher Anwar al-Awlaki and trained with al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Although AQAP took responsibility for the attack, early indications are that it did not directly order or plan the massacre. The gunmen were killed days later after an extensive manhunt. In a separate attack, another gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, took hostages and killed four people at a kosher market in Paris before being killed by French police. Two days after his death, a video appeared online in which Coulibaly sat below an ISIS flag and pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the organization's leader.


ISIS: U.S. airstrikes killed three senior ISIS leaders in Iraq: Haji Mutazz, al-Baghdadi's deputy in Iraq; Abd al Basit, his military emir in Iraq; and Radwan Talib, ISIS's Mosul emir. Their deaths resulted from multiple strikes going back to mid-November, but which could not be immediately and decisively confirmed. Nevertheless, the Islamic State/ISIS is stepping up its recruitment of not only male fighters, but of children to indoctrinate as a new generation of radical fighters, women as potential wives for fighters, and professionals such as doctors, accountants, and engineers as its seeks to build a new society in its territorial base in Iraq and Syria. The Islamic State told a London-based news outlet that they have a $2 billion budget for 2015, not including an expected $250 million surplus that will go to help fund their war against the West and western allies, as the head of Britain's MI5 security force warned that extremists in Syria are plotting a massive attack against the West. Finally, a botched cyberattack aimed at unmasking Syrian dissidents has experts worried that ISIS is adding malicious software to its arsenal.


BOKO HARAM MASSACRE: Amnesty International reports that as many as 2,000 soldiers and civilians may have been killed in one week at the hands of Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria. Although Nigeria's military has disputed these figures, the United Nations and other government figures say some 20,000 Nigerians have fled to Chad, Niger, and Cameroon in the past two weeks after their towns and villages were attacked by the Islamist sect.


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syriairaqSyria and Iraq Watch 


OPERATIONAL OVERVIEW: Backed by a surge of American airstrikes, Kurdish forces recaptured a large swath of territory from ISIS, opening a path from the autonomous Kurdish region to Mount Sinjar in the west near the Syrian border, the siege of which and the threat of a massacre against the local Yazidi sect prompted the first U.S. operations in August. Since the start of U.S. kinetic operations against ISIS on August 8 through the end of 2014, the U.S.-led coalition dropped 5,886 bombs on 3,222 targets in Iraq and Syria. U.S. military operations against ISIS have surpassed the $1 billion mark, with the Pentagon announcing that as of December 11, 2014, the total cost of operations was $1.02 billion and the average daily cost is $8.1 million. More than 76,000 people died in Syria's civil war in 2014, and violence in Iraq killed at least 12,282 civilians last year, the deadliest year since the begin of the Surge in 2007.


Iraqi Army training exercise.
IRAQ, TRAIN AND EQUIP: The Defense Department announced the deployment of an additional 1,500 American troops - including 1,000 from the 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team - to advise and train Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS. Unlike the previous mission to train the entire Iraqi army, Pentagon officials say the American troops deploying to Iraq will focus only on a small section of Iraq's army. However, a Pentagon spokesman said it's likely to be several months until the new America-led mission to train Iraqi soldiers gets underway, and the top U.S. commander overseeing the mission in Iraq, LTG James Terry, said a "minimum of three years" will be required until the Iraqis are capable of taking back and securing their country from Islamic extremists. Against the backdrop of these new deployments, the Defense Department said ISIS is launching "regular" - albeit ineffective - mortar attacks on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, where 320 U.S. soldiers and Marines are training Iraqi forces. Meanwhile, the State Department has approved the potential sales to Iraq of $2.4 billion in M1A1 Abrams tanks and $579 million in up-armored Humvees. The Army is also considering equipping the 171 Abrams with more armor and other upgrades to protect against roadside bombs. The United States had provided the Iraqi armed forces with $300 million in donated military equipment in 2014. However, according to a report by Bloomberg News citing U.S. lawmakers and Obama administration officials, U.S. weapons intended for Iraq's military are winding up in the possession of the country's Shi'a militias.



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defenseDefense Watch 


AUTHORIZATIONS AND APPROPRIATIONS: Before adjourning for the holidays, the Senate passed the two major annual defense bills: an appropriations measure (via the omnibus spending deal) and the National Defense Authorization Act, thereby giving the Pentagon a fresh spending plan and allowing it to start new initiatives slated for this fiscal year. Congressional committees tweaked nearly ten percent of the money the Pentagon requested for its FY2015 appropriations accounts, resulting in $4.4 billion in additional procurement and research and development projects. President Barack Obama signed the new bills into law, but once again slammed the NDAA provisions that make it more difficult to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, suggesting they infringe on his powers as Commander in Chief. Meanwhile, early reports indicate the Pentagon will request about $51 billion in war funding for the next fiscal year, a twenty percent reduction from the $64 billion Congress approved this year and the least since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


F-35 GUNS AND UAV CRISES: The Daily Beast reported that the F-35 will not be able to fire its gun during operational missions until 2019, a claim the F-35 joint program office quickly described as a "misreporting" of the facts. The office's spokesman did acknowledge a "minor low-level issue" with the gun's software, but said the issue was identified during testing and would be resolved by Spring 2015, and that the gun on the F-35 remains on schedule to go operational in 2017. At a time when unmanned aerial vehicle missions are increasing, the Air Force's fleet of drones is reportedly being strained to the "breaking point" according to senior military officials. The Air Force is facing a shortage of pilots for the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones, and is considering increasing retention bonuses for remotely-piloted aircraft pilots.


EUROPEAN CONSOLIDATION: The Defense Department announced the results of its two-year review of the U.S. military footprint in Europe, known as the European Consolidation Initiative. Although there will be no major adjustment to the overall U.S. force level, about 2,000 American troops and DoD civilians would return to the United States as part of the changes, in which the military plans to move units, close facilities, or return them to their host nations in Britain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Portugal. Last May the department announced a first round of base closures in Europe, returning 21 sites to their host countries for a total savings of $60 million a year. In 2020 the Air Force will post its first two squadrons of F-35s on the continent at the Royal Air Force's Lakenheath base in Britain. And the Army announced plans to send a brigade of tanks and fighting vehicles into Europe by the end of 2015. Some commentators see this new round of closures and consolidations in Europe as a pre-emptive step in advance of expected DoD proposals of a new round of base closures in its 2016 budget to be unveiled in February, allowing defense officials to say they have already gone after the low-hanging fruit overseas.


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irangulfIran and Gulf Watch 


IRAN: As the United States and its coalition partners begin deploying thousands of troops to Iraq to train and equip Iraqi and Kurdish army brigades, Baghdad and Tehran have signed an agreement to continue training of Iraqi units. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that for most Iraqis it is Iran, not the U.S. and its partners that is seen as their country's best ally in the war against the Islamic State and is credited with stopping the extremists' march on Baghdad. Additionally, Iranian military leaders recently admitted to building and operating missile-manufacturing plants in Syria, where it was also revealed that Tehran is helping to build a secret nuclear facility.


GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL: In an attempt to show unity in the face of their common enemies Iran and the Islamic State, the monarchs of the Persian Gulf met in Cairo in December to declare they had resolved an 18-month feud over Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and for rival factions in Syria and Libya. Unable to attend, however, was Saudi King Abdullah, who was recently hospitalized amid reports that he was battling pneumonia and needed temporary help from a breathing tube. Although Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud offered assurances about the King's health at a cabinet meeting, the reports trigged concerns about Abdullah's longevity and a possible succession struggle in the key U.S. regional ally.


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usisraelU.S.-Israel Cooperation  

Israel has asked Washington to preserve cut-rate costs and generous terms of a proposed package of up to six V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft pending an ongoing reassessment of procurement priorities driven by last summer's Gaza war.


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alliesAllies Watch 


EGYPT: The United States delivered ten Apache helicopters to Egypt in December after lifting part of a freeze on aid to the longtime ally.


TURKEY: Turkey announced that it's top procurement panel decided to order four more F-35 fighter jets and five more CH-47F Chinook heavy transport helicopters.


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missileMissile Defense 


ARROW FAILURE: In December, Israel's upgraded Arrow ballistic missile shield failed its first live interception test. An Israeli Defense Ministry official, however, characterized the test as a "no test" given that "conditions did not allow for" actual launch of the intercepting missile.


ARMY AEROSTAT: The Army began testing its Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (a.k.a. JLENS), a blimp program designed to help the military detect and destroy cruise missiles speeding towards Washington D.C. and other major East Coast cities.


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techTechnology Watch 


NORTH KOREAN CYBER ATTACK: U.S. officials announced publicly they had concluded North Korea was responsible for the hacking of Sony Pictures and said the Obama administration was considering a "proportional response." Although the White House was considering an array of retaliatory measures, it was unclear if there are any good options given the totalitarian state's near-total isolation from the global economy. Within a few days, however, North Korea's tenuous links to the Internet went dark for half a day after several days of instability. Although internet service was restored, Twitter accounts associated with the hacker collective Anonymous claimed credit for the distributed-denial-of-service attack. Despite its widespread poverty and lack of infrastructure that includes barely 1,000 internet addresses and one Internet service provider, Pyongyang has poured resources into training thousands of hackers for cyber operations primarily against South Korea. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey says the Sony hack demonstrates that U.S. military superiority doesn't necessarily carry over to the cyberworld.


: On the same day President Obama was delivering an address on cybersecurity in Washington, D.C., hackers claiming to support the Islamic State took over U.S. CENTCOM's Twitter and YouTube accounts and posted threatening messages aimed at U.S. troops and their families. Although the social media accounts are not part of any Defense Department computer system, the hack was a significant embarrassment for CENTCOM and a propaganda win for ISIS. The Office of the Secretary of Defense subsequently directed its own social media managers to double check the security of their accounts, and CENTCOM's Twitter and YouTube accounts were restored within days. Unrelatedly, the Pentagon stood up a new headquarters within the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to assume responsibility for defending military networks.


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Security Digest newsletter is a monthly bulletin covering U.S.-Israel security cooperation and much more. Distributed by e-mail, Security Digest is compiled by Benjamin Runkle. Look for Security Digest every month in your e-mail inbox. To give us feedback, simply reply to this email.
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