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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.




Gen. Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Islamic State cannot be defeated without striking its base in Syria. Secretary of Defense Hagel warned that the IS poses "an imminent threat" to US interests everywhere, not just in Iraq, and said it is "as sophisticated and well-funded as any group" the US has seen. The US continued to carry out airstrikes against the IS in Iraq. Hagel did not foreclose the possibility of airstrikes in Syria. The Government Accountability Office concluded that the Defense Department broke the law by exchanging five Taliban commanders in Guantanamo Bay for Pfc. Bowie Bergdahl without notifying Congress in advance. The US posted new rewards for five Haqqani Network leaders, and added a Taliban hawala along with its owner and a Taliban commander to the US terrorist lists.




Unmanned US drones conducted airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq today and the Pentagon is said to be considering sending up to 300 more US security forces to Baghdad. President Obama vowed that the US would be relentless in bringing justice to the Islamic State terrorists who beheaded US journalist James Foley. Confirming Foley's murder, Secretary of State Kerry called the Islamic State "evil." A US official dismissed the idea that the beheading and threats by the Islamic State would cause the US to suspend airstrikes, saying "the only question is if we do more."




President Obama said the US is pursuing a "longterm strategy" against the Islamic State, and yesterday invoked the War Powers Act to justify authorizing airstrikes against Islamic State militants threatening Iraq's Mosul Dam; the Pentagon has conducted 40 airstrikes since Aug. 16 to support operations of Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga to retake the complex. The State Department designated Said Arif a.k.a. Omar Gharib, an Al Nusrah Front leader, and Abu Muhammed al Adnani, an Islamic State leader and spokesman, as global terrorists. The USS Cape Ray finished neutralizing all 600 metric tons of Syria's most lethal chemical weapons components. The FAA prohibited US airlines from flying over Syria, and warned that extremist groups in Syria with anti-aircraft weapons are opposed to the provision of civil air service to Syria. The Islamic State posted a brief video on social media threatening Americans that it will "drown all of you in blood" if US airstrikes hit IS fighters.




Defense Secretary Hagel said 130 more US military assessment team members were sent to northern Iraq today; there are currently 250 US military advisers already in Iraq, along with 450 security forces, and 100 troops guarding the US Embassy in Baghdad. A Pentagon official said the US is conducting 50-60 sorties a day in Iraq but that the US airstrikes so far have had minimal impact on the Islamic State. North Carolina resident Donald Ray Morgan, 44, who was arrested at Kennedy Airport on Aug. 2 on his return from Lebanon, was ordered to be held without bail last week; he had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and is suspected of arms trafficking.




President Obama said the US military intervention against the Islamic State in Iraq will not be over in "weeks" as it is a "long-term project." He said that once an inclusive Iraqi government is formed, the US military, in conjunction with Iraqi and Kurdish fighters, will be able to "engage in some offense," not just play defense. He also said the US Embassy and Consulate in Iraq would not be closed, but again ruled out sending in US ground troops. Senator McCain called yesterday's two strikes "pinpricks" and "meaningless"; Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein warned of the Islamic State threat that "it takes an army to defeat an army."




Defense Secretary Hagel said yesterday's insider attack in Kabul that killed a US major general and wounded over a dozen Coalition forces will not affect the US' planned drawdown in Afghanistan. The White House announced plans to spend $110 million a year for the next few years on helping Senegal, Ghana, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda to develop rapid response forces. The Treasury Department added three "key terrorist financiers," all linked to Kuwait, to its list of global terrorists; two support the Al Nusrah Front and the other works with the Islamic State.




Secretary of State Kerry denounced the Assad regime and said the US will give an additional $378 million in humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, bringing the US total so far in the conflict to $2.4 billion. A Senate report found that the Department of Homeland Security has failed to conduct security inspections at 99% of the 4,011 chemical facilities considered at high risk for terrorist attacks. The Defense Department confirmed that as a routine matter the US recently released weapons from its stockpile to Israel.




Lawmakers questioned State and Defense department officials over the US' policy in Iraq; they were told there is no military solution to Iraq's conflict but asked why Iraqi requests for US strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham camps since August 2013 were dismissed. A top State official said the US is now flying 50 sorties daily over Iraq, up from one per month in the past. Former members of the independent 9/11 commission issued a 600-page report warning that "[t]he struggle against terrorism is far from over--rather, it has entered a new and dangerous phase," and stressing the need to enhance defenses against cyberattacks.




Azamat Tazhayakov, a friend of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was found guilty of obstruction of justice in the case; another friend, Stephen Silva, was arrested and accused of providing a gun used to kill a policeman during the manhunt after the bombing. The State Department warned citizens against travel to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, and US and European airlines suspended flights to and from Tel Aviv. Two leaders of a Philadelphia mosque were arrested last week for trying to amputate the hand of a man they accused of theft. Congressional staffers reportedly rejected a plan to invest $500 million in training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels.




The US agreed with other world powers and Iran to a four-month extension of the deadline for reaching a deal on Iran's nuclear program, but said it will continue to enforce remaining sanctions. The agreement gives Iran access to $2.8 billion in frozen assets. Adam Dandach a.k.a. Fadi Fadi Dandach of Orange County, Calif., was indicted for lying on a passport application; he was arrested on July 2 at John Wayne Airport as he tried to board a flight to Istanbul on his way to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham in Syria.




Ahmed Abassi, 27, a Tunisian who had expressed a desire to carry out terrorist attacks on the US that included poisoning 100,000 people, was sentenced to time served and will be extradited to Tunisia, after pleading guilty to lesser charges. Abassi had admitted to radicalizing Chiheb Esseghaier, who has been charged along with Raed Jaser for trying to blow up a train that travels between Toronto and New York. Syed Talha Ahsan, a British man charged with Babar Ahmad for supporting the Taliban, was sentenced to time served and is expected to be deported.




A district court judge sentenced Babar Ahmad, a British cyberjihadist who ran websites supporting the Taliban and other terrorist groups, to 12 and a half years in prison with credit for time served; Ahmad could be released in less than a year. Prosecutors had sought a 25-year sentence due to concerns Ahmad will return to his former activities; a codefendant, Syed Talha Ahsan, is to be sentenced tomorrow. The Pentagon lobbied lawmakers to support a $6 billion supplement to the military's 2015 contingency operations budget. Defense Secretary Hagel signaled plans to transfer six Guantanamo detainees to Uruguay next month.




Defense Secretary Hagel said the Islamic State poses a threat to the US as well as to Europe and other US allies in the Middle East. The Treasury Department today sanctioned a Lebanon-based Hezbollah technology procurement network with subsidiaries in China and the United Arab Emirates, and yesterday sanctioned a U.A.E.-based petroleum products company and two Syrian front companies for supplying materials to the Assad regime and its weapons program. Matthew Olsen, head of the National Counter-Terrorism Center, is resigning. Newly-released testimony by Gen. Carter Ham, former head of US Africa Command, indicated his view that the second wave of the 2012 attack on the US Mission in Benghazi was carried out by a "well-trained" crew from outside Benghazi.




The Transportation Security Agency began requiring that electronic devices brought on board US-bound flights will power up, due to fears they may have been turned into bombs. Khairullozhon Matanov, a friend of Boston Marathan bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was accused of lying to the FBI and deleting files on his computer relating to the Tsarnaevs. Recently unsealed documents indicate that Shannon Maureen Conley, 19, of Denver, Colo., was arrested in April as she tried to travel to Syria to join a Tunisian suitor who claimed to be a member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham; she said she wanted to use her military training for jihad.




US officials called for tighter security at foreign airports that have direct flights to the US, following intelligence reports that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Al Nusrah Front in Syria are cooperating on attack plans, and possibly developing currently undetectable bombs capable of downing an airliner. Pentagon chief Gen. Martin Dempsey denied there was "mission creep" in Iraq but did not foreclose the possibility of greater US involvement. He also said the US will be facing violent extremist groups such as the Islamic State for "the foreseeable future." Ansar al Sharia operative and Benghazi Mission attack suspect Ahmed Abu Khattalah has pled not guilty but will remain in pretrial detention as he continues to show deadly intent to attack US interests.




President Obama said an extra 200 US troops are being deployed to Iraq to protect the US Embassy in Baghdad as well as its support facilities and the international airport. A federal court in California sentenced US national Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen a.k.a. Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum to 13 years in prison plus 10 years' supervision after release. He was arrested in August after returning from fighting with Syrian rebels, when he disclosed his plan to travel to Pakistan to train al Qaeda fighters to attack Coalition forces. The Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling requiring the Jordan-based Arab Bank to turn over documents in lawsuits accusing it of providing services to front groups for Hamas and other terrorist organizations.


 
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