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US and coalition forces carried out 22 airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, all in Kobane except for one in Deir al Zour; today's strikes were the most intense targeting yet by the coalition in Kobane. US forces also carried out one airstrike in Iraq against the group. President Obama met with coalition partners to discuss strategy against the Islamic State. The US and Russia agreed to begin sharing intelligence on the Islamic State. The Justice Department added 17 new charges against Ahmed Abu Khatallah, including that he led an Ansar al Sharia-linked militia, and that he conspired to attack the US mission in Benghazi and kill American citizens. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno warned that the 2012 plan to cut the active-duty force from 570,000 to 450,000 must be revised, as seven of the Army's 10 divisions are currently deployed around the globe, and "military risk is increasing exponentially" due in part to "mistaken assumptions about the number, duration, location and size of future force conflicts, and the need to conduct post-stability operations."
The FBI has posted a video showing an American appearing in Islamic State propaganda, in an attempt to identify him. Mohammed Hamzah Khan, a US citizen from Bolingbrook, Ill., was arrested on Oct. 4 at O'Hare Airport as he was trying to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State. US intelligence officials said that recent US airstrikes in Syria against al Qaeda's "Khorasan group" cell have not disrupted the cell's operations. At least one cell member, French jihadist David Drugeon, is thought to have escaped the strikes. The Justice Department has already charged 10 people this year for seeking to join terrorist groups abroad, a marked increase over the five US prosecutions on similar charges from 2011 to 2013.
In the biggest day yet in the air campaign against the Islamic State, the US and the UK jointly launched 24 strikes against the group in Iraq and Syria, bringing the totals so far to 233 in Iraq and at least 62 in Syria. The US signed an agreement with the new Afghan government to allow 9,800 US troops to remain in Afghanistan until 2015 to train and advise Afghan security forces; some of the US troops will also conduct counterterrorism missions. NATO signed an agreement permitting up to 3,000 NATO troops to remain in Afghanistan along with the US troops. The State Department tried to define the term "Khorasan group"; the group is simply al Qaeda. The US added Harakat-ul-Mujahideen leader Fazle-ur-Rahman Khalil to its terrorist lists, as well as two Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives and two businesses linked to LeT.
President Obama said US intelligence had underestimated the threat posed by the Islamic State and overestimated the Iraqi Army's ability to confront the group. He also said part of the solution will be military. "We just have to push them back, and shrink their space, and go after their command and control, and their capacity, and their weapons, and their fueling, and cut off their financing, and work to eliminate the flow of foreign fighters." House Speaker Boehner recommended that Congress consider a resolution authorizing the use of force for this mission, even though Obama already has the power to order airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's Syrian branch, warned of retaliation for the US campaign in Syria. Alton Nolen, a recent Muslim convert charged in the Sept. 25 beheading of a woman in Oklahoma City, had posted Islamist messages on social media, including "America and Israel are wicked. Wake up Muslims!!!"; authorities are saying there is no link to terrorism.
National Security Adviser Rice declined to say when the US would begin launching airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria. The White House said President Obama would not have to approve each and every strike. Army chief of staff General Odierno said the deployment of ground troops remains an option for the planners of the US-led military intervention against the IS.
A divided House of Representatives voted to authorize the training and arming of Syrian rebels. President Obama said the US will degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State by means of airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq and Syria, training and equipping "partners," including Iraqi troops, and by leading a broad coalition against the group; he vowed that he will not commit US troops to another ground war in Iraq. Vice President Biden said the decision to commit US ground troops in Iraq will depend on how the current strategy works. Joint chiefs chair General Dempsey said that 24 of the Iraqi Army's 50 brigades are not credible US partners. Calling the Islamic State a long-term threat to the US and Europe, Army chief of staff General Odierno said airstrikes alone will not root out extremists in Iraq, ground troops will also be needed, and that extremists cannot be permitted a safe haven in Syria. Mufid A. Elfgeeh, of Rochester, New York, was indicted for helping three men try to join ISIS in Syria and for planning to murder US troops who had returned from Iraq. The Islamic State released a video threatening retaliation against the US.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, head of the Joint Chiefs, said the US troops in Iraq are working in a "combat advisory role" now but that if circumstances evolved he might recommend that they "provide close combat advising" or accompany particular missions. Lawmakers are considering measures for providing arms and training to Syrian rebels. Senior US officials warned that the US will retaliate if Syrian forces attack US aircraft launching strikes in Syria. Secretary of State Kerry said that although the US will not cooperate militarily with Iran in fighting the Islamic State, the US is willing to talk to Iran about the fight against the terrorist organization. NATO ally Turkey has refused US requests to join the coalition against the Islamic State. President Obama is sending 3,000 US troops to Africa to help combat the alarming spread of the Ebola virus.
Secretary of State Kerry said the US will not coordinate airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria with the Assad government, but that the US will try to ensure that US and Syrian forces do not conflict with each other. He also said airstrikes alone will not defeat the IS, and stated that the fighting on the ground in Syria would be done by opposition forces backed up by US and allied air support. The FBI in Minneapolis is looking into the recruitment of young women and men in the area by Islamist extremists, including the Islamic State.
The Pentagon said yesterday that the US has carried out about 160 airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq over the last month, and that it is preparing to "to be more aggressive going forward" in the US counterterrorism campaign. The Pentagon also plans to oversee training of some 5,000 Syrian rebels in Saudi Arabia over the next 12 months. US officials are concerned about possible collaboration between AQAP, al Qaeda operatives in Syria, and Western jihadists who may be jointly planning attacks against the West.
The CIA now estimates that the Islamic State has between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters in Syria and Iraq. Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Syria and Iraq, said the US currently has no clue who the non-Islamic State opposition is in Syria. Retired Gen. John R. Allen has been chosen to coordinate the military effort against the Islamic State. US combat aircraft will soon start flying from a base in Irbil in Iraq. Ten Arab states -- Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq -- agreed to support the US-led coalition against the Islamic State "as appropriate." The US sent 20 troops to the Central African Republic as a prelude to reopening the embassy, which has been closed since late 2012.
President Obama announced a counterterrorism strategy against the Islamic State that will include airstrikes in Syria as well as Iraq and will see 475 additional US troops dispatched to Iraq; the US will lead a "broad coalition" against the IS, and the strategy will center around US air power supporting "partner forces on the ground." He also urged Congress to approve $500 million to train and equip "moderate" Syrian rebels, and vowed that the US "will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq." Secretary of State Kerry said US ground troops would be deployed in Iraq only if "very dramatic" changes called for it. A senior official said the US is very concerned that instability in Libya is conducive to its use by terrorists sending weapons and fighters to Iraq and Syria; he also said some militias there have expressed interest in IS.
President Obama told senior lawmakers he has the authority to carry out the plans for action against the Islamic State that he will announce tomorrow. The family of slain American journalist Stephen Sotloff claimed that his whereabouts in Syria was sold to the ISIS by a so-called moderate Syrian rebel group; the White House denied the report. The US is seeking to bolster intelligence cooperation with Jordan in the fight against the Islamic State. The US is ending its contracts with a security clearance contractor after it experienced a cyberattack in August that compromised the personal files of up to 25,000 Homeland Security employees.
Defense Secretary Hagel, meeting with the Erdogan government in Turkey to discuss strategy against the Islamic State, said the Obama administration will need to consider the ending as well as the beginning of any broader military action against the Islamic State; President Obama has said he will address the topic on Sept. 10. US intelligence officials are monitoring the possibility that commercial jets said to be missing from Tripoli Airport in Libya might be used for terrorist attacks.
The US targeted Shabaab leaders in an airstrike in south central Somalia. The US is deploying an additional 350 troops to protect the American Embassy in Iraq. A Marine helicopter crashed into the Gulf of Aden while trying to land on a Navy ship; all 25 passengers were rescued.
The US imposed new sanctions on Iran, aimed mainly at preventing Iran from getting around existing ones and halting the provision of weapons and personnel to Syria. The Homeland Security Department is considering the imposition of additional measures to stop jihadists from returning from conflict zones such as Syria and Iraq to the US. A Texas law enforcement bulletin warned that social media statements by Islamic State sympathizers have expressed interest in attacks by terrorists entering via the Mexican border. Ailina Tsarnaeva, a sister of Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev, has been arrested and charged for threatening to bomb a New York City woman. The Pentagon said operations in Iraq are costing about $7.5 million per day, and that the total since mid-June is around $560 million.
President Obama said the US does not yet have a strategy for defeating the Islamic State, but said the US focus for now is on protecting American personnel in Iraq. Sources said James Foley and at least three other captives were waterboarded and tortured by the Islamic State in Syria. Ahmad Ibrahim Al Ahmad, a Syrian who supplied IEDs for use against US troops in Iraq between 2005 and 2010, appeared in a Phoenix, Ariz., federal court on terrorism charges.
The US has begun flying surveillance missions over Syria to gather intelligence on the Islamic State. The US denied a report that it is sharing intelligence with the Assad regime. Defense Secretary Hagel said that in addition to the US, seven other Western countries are providing weapons to Kurdish forces in Iraq fighting the Islamic State. The IS is demanding a ransom of $6.6 million for the release of a 26-year-old female American aid worker who was kidnapped last year in Aleppo; the terror group is also insisting on the release of US prisoners including Aafia Siddiqui, who has been dubbed "Lady al Qaeda" and is currently serving an 86-year term for attempting to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan. US citizen Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, of San Diego, Cal., was killed while fighting for the IS in Syria.
Officials said the US is getting ready to launch intelligence and surveillance flights, including drones, over Syria, and that airstrike options are also being considered. In response to Syria's offer welcoming US airstrikes on the Islamic State so long as they are coordinated with Syria, US officials indicated that they do not plan to collaborate with or even inform Syria of any such action. US officials said they were surprised at reports that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates carried out recent airstrikes against Islamist targets in Libya.
General Dempsey, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that if and when he finds that the Islamic State is plotting direct attacks on the US homeland or Europe, then he will recommend that the US take military action against the group in Syria. He also said the group should be constrained and defeated in partnership with US allies in the region, including Turkey, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The US has carried out 96 airstrikes against the Islamic State so far in Iraq, 62 of which took place near Mosul Dam. The top ISAF commander said that over the past eight months, Coalition bases in Afghanistan have been consolidated from 85 down to 42, and that by early November fewer than 24 bases will still be operating, many of them housing special operations troops.
A top adviser to President Obama said the administration is considering its response to the Islamic State threat, will do "what is necessary" to protect Americans, and will not be "restricted by borders." Joint Chiefs Chair General Dempsey floated the idea of containment. Senator James Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned that ISIS members are "rapidly developing a method of blowing up a major US city and people just can't believe that's happening." An Aug. 9 Twitter posting appears to show a downtown Chicago building on June 20 with the threat that ISIS soldiers "will pass from here soon." A US official said that more than 100 US citizens have tried to fight in Syria. A classified Pentagon assessment said that Iran is continuing its buildup of weapons near the Strait of Hormuz while toning down its military rhetoric. Dias Kadyrbayev, a friend of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, pled guilty to hampering the investigation.