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Army Lt. Gen. James Terry, commander of US forces in the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, said it is likely to take "a minimum of three years" to reach a turning point against the group. The Pentagon said that coalition airstrikes in Iraq since mid-November have killed "multiple senior and mid-level" Islamic State leaders. Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared in court and said he was satisfied with his defense counsel. One of his friends, Stephen Silva, may plead guilty to possessing a gun used in the attacks. The Treasury Department yesterday imposed sanctions on "11 individuals and entities, located in four countries" for helping the Assad regime procure fuel for "its military campaign against the Syrian people." Today the State Department added Ajnad Misr, an Egyptian jihadist group, and Ibrahim Rubaish, a senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula official, to the terrorist list.




Since Dec. 15, the US and partner nations have conducted 61 airstrikes in Iraq and six in Syria against the Islamic State; 45 of the airstrikes in Iraq were in support of Peshmerga and Iraqi forces in the region. President Obama announced the resumption of diplomatic ties with Cuba and Havana's release of US citizen Alan Gross and a prisoner exchange of a US intelligence "asset" for three Cuban spies. The FBI has indicated that North Korea is likely behind a major cyberattack at Sony Pictures; the company has pulled a film on North Korea that was slated for release. Uruguay's president has claimed that the six former Guantanamo prisoners recently transferred to his country were not terrorists.




Since Dec. 10, the US has conducted 16 airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, and the US and partners have carried out 29 airstrikes against the group in Iraq. President Obama told US troops: "The time of deploying large ground forces with big military footprints to engage in nation building overseas, that's coming to an end."




CENTCOM reported that since Dec. 8, the US has conducted seven airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State and the US and partners carried out 13 airstrikes against the group in Iraq. The US also released video of recent airstrikes in Syria. ISAF formally ended its Afghan mission on Dec. 8, and began preparing for NATO's Resolute Support training mission, which starts on Jan. 1. The US released the last three detainees from US custody at Parwan prison in Afghanistan. The CIA reacted to fallout from the release of a Senate report harshly criticizing the agency for its interrogation tactics in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.




The US released six Guantanamo detainees to Uruguay, including Jihad Ahmed Mujstafa Diyab, who had been assessed a "high-risk" detainee with extensive connections to al Qaeda's global network. The US handed over Latif Mehsud and two others detained by US forces in Afghanistan in 2013 to Pakistani authorities. US officials said the unsuccessful raid to rescue US hostage Luke Somers and Pierre Korkie, a South African, from AQAP in Yemen was undertaken after receiving intelligence that the two men were about to be executed.




CENTCOM reported that since Dec. 3, the US has conducted six airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria and that the US and partners have carried out 14 airstrikes against the group in Iraq. US officials discussed plans for the temporary addition of extra US troops to NATO's Afghan training mission Resolute Support.




A Pentagon report on the green-on-blue attack in Afghanistan in August that killed a US general and wounded 16 Coalition troops found no evidence that the attack was instigated by the Taliban, but faulted Afghan officials for lack of cooperation with the investigation. The National Security Council acknowledged that US commandos had tried to rescue American hostage Luke Somers from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula last month; AQAP has threatened to kill him.




CENTCOM reported that since Dec. 1, the US has carried out 14 airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State, and that the US and partner nations carried out 11 airstrikes against the group in Iraq. Secretary of State Kerry refused to confirm reports that Iranian airstrikes had targeted the Islamic State in Iraq and added that the US is not coordinating militarily with Iran, but said that the net effect of such strikes could be positive. Gen. Rodriguez, who heads Africa Command, said the US is monitoring an effort by the Islamic State to train fighters in eastern Libya.




CENTCOM said there have been 26 airstrikes in Syria and 28 in Iraq against the Islamic State since Nov. 28, and that in addition one airstrike near Aleppo targeted al Qaeda's Khorasan network in Syria. The FBI and the Homeland Security Department warned that Islamic State operatives are planning to target current and former members of the US military within the US. The US and Turkey have been discussing the issue of Syrian border security, including the proposal for a "safe zone." A US F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed while returning to its base in the Middle East, killing an Air Force pilot.




CENTCOM said that between Nov. 24 and Nov. 26, US aircraft targeted the Islamic State with 10 airstrikes in Syria, and that US and partner air forces launched seven airstrikes against the group in Iraq. Additional strikes were carried out yesterday in Iraq and Syria. A covert US-led special forces mission that rescued eight hostages held by AQAP in Yemen on Nov. 25 reportedly missed five other hostages, including an American, who had been moved two days before the raid.




The US has agreed to provide up to 1,000 extra US troops for the NATO mission in Afghanistan next year to fill the gap created by other nations' unfulfilled troop commitment pledges. About two dozen US special forces led Yemeni troops in a commando raid in eastern Yemen that rescued eight hostages held by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Authorities charged two Somali Americans from Minneapolis, Abdi Nur and Abdullahi Yusuf, with conspiring to support the Islamic State. Nur allegedly traveled to Turkey and communicated online with wanted Shabaab fugitive Mohammed Abdullah Hassan.




CENTCOM said the US and partner nations have carried out nine airstrikes in Syria and 15 in Iraq against the Islamic State since Nov. 21. Defense Secretary Hagel tendered his resignation, reportedly after pressure by the Obama administration. Officials questioned and released a suspect, said to be a Saudi college student, who triggered a four-hour lockdown at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio last night when he drove through a base entry gate without stopping. Secretary of State Kerry said talks on Iran's nuclear program have been extended for seven more months.




In recent weeks, President Obama quietly broadened the US mission in Afghanistan in 2015, authorizing US forces to conduct missions against the Taliban and other groups that threaten Afghanistan, the US, or Coalition forces and to support Afghan troops in combat missions. US troop levels in Afghanistan, to be reduced to about 4,900 by the end of 2015, reportedly will not be affected by the new guidelines. The US has already committed roughly 10,000 troops to the Coalition's 2015 "Resolute Support" training mission in Afghanistan. The US pledged to give the relief effort in Syria and Turkey an additional $135 million, bringing the total donated so far by the US for humanitarian relief for Syrians to more than $3 billion; the US will also admit some 7,000 refugees from Turkey into the US next year. The US has released detainee Muhammad al-Zahrani from Guantanamo and repatriated him to Saudi Arabia.




CENTCOM said US and partner nations have carried out seven airstrikes in Syria and 23 in Iraq against the Islamic State since Nov. 19. Vice-President Biden met with Turkey's prime minister in Ankara about the campaign against the Islamic State.




US authorities released three Guantanamo Bay detainees to Georgia, including Abdel Ghaib Ahmad Hakim, a Yemeni; the other two are Salah Mohammed Salih Al-Dhabi and Abdul Khaled Al-Baydani. The US also released two detainees to Slovakia, Hashim Bin Ali Bin Amor Sliti and Husayn Salim Muhammad Al-Mutari Yafai. Seventy-four inmates remain at Guantanamo awaiting resettlement. US officials have confirmed that ex-Gitmo detainee Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost is now recruiting in Pakistan for the Islamic State. Secretary of Defense Hagel said that the Assad regime is benefiting indirectly from the campaign against the Islamic State.




CENTCOM said that between Nov. 17 and Nov. 19, US and partner nations carried out 24 airstrikes in Iraq against the Islamic State and six airstrikes against the group in Syria; the US also conducted one airstrike near Haram in northwest Syria against al Qaeda's "Khorasan Group." US military records show that the US Air Force has carried out about two-thirds of the 956 airstrikes against the Islamic State between Aug. 8 and Nov. 16. John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, called the US' $103-billion dollar nation-building effort in Afghanistan "an abysmal failure."




President Obama condemned the terrorist attack on worshipers at a Jerusalem synagogue that left three US citizens, a Briton, and an Israeli policeman dead and several others seriously wounded. A spokesman for the National Security Council said Obama has directed relevant departments and agencies to review the government's policies for addressing the kidnapping of US citizens by terrorist groups; the White House said that the ban on paying ransoms will not be lifted.




CENTCOM reported that since Nov. 14, US forces have conducted 11 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, and US and partner forces have carried out 20 airstrikes in Iraq against the group. A US intelligence official indicated that US targeting in Syria and Iraq is hampered by insufficient intelligence on the ground. The American envoy to the IAEA said the US is "disappointed by Iran's failure to engage substantively" on the nuclear weapons issue. The Defense Department announced that Turkey has agreed to allow the US to start training and equipping Free Syrian Army fighters in Turkey. Secretary of State Kerry said the Islamic State does not intimidate the US.




Secretary of Defense Hagel announced plans to revitalize the US military's technological capabilities. Qatar's foreign minister warned that the US air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria is helping the Assad regime and straining Sunni-Shia relations in the Middle East; he suggested that Arab forces take over territory recaptured from the Islamic State. President Obama reiterated that the US does not plan to carry out military operations against the Assad regime. US military advisers have begun assisting Iraqi troops in Anbar province. The White House confirmed that former US soldier and Syrian aid worker Peter Kassig was beheaded by the Islamic State.




In his first visit to Iraq since the US air campaign against the Islamic State began in August, Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Martin Dempsey said that the battle against the group in Iraq is "starting to turn," but cautioned that the effort to eradicate the group will take several years. The Obama administration is thinking of escalating the CIA program that vets and trains "moderate" Syrian rebels, as part of its strategy in Syria against the Islamic State; the program currently turns out 400 fighters a month. Attorney General Eric Holder said the US is sending 70 or more prosecutors and law enforcement officials to the Balkans, North Africa, and the Middle East "to help track down jihadist fighters returning from Syria."


 
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