Deployment of up to 50 commandos would be first sustained U.S. ground presence in Syria
The Obama Administration on Friday announced the deployment of up to 50 Special Forces troops to Syria to advise on a new military campaign against ISIS. This is the first sustained U.S. ground presence in the country.
WASHINGTON—The U.S. is sending special-operations forces to northeastern Syria, a shift in strategy that establishes the first sustained American military presence in the campaign against Islamic State in the war-ravaged country.
Up to 50 U.S. special-operations troops will assist Syrian rebel units spearheading what the Pentagon says would be a new military offensive against the militant group, marking a sharp escalation in the level of direct U.S. involvement on the ground inside Syria. The American forces are to link up with local forces in Kurdish-controlled territory whose mission will be to choke off supply lines to Islamic State militants in their Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.
The move marks a change for President Barrack Obama who had long promised not to send ground forces to Syria.
“They are not being deployed with a combat mission,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. “The mission of our men and women on the ground has not changed.”
If the initial deployment bears fruit, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Friday that he would be open to deploying more forces.
“We are going to continue to innovate, to build on what works,” Mr. Carter told reporters on a military jet as it landed in Fairbanks, Alaska, for the first leg of a trip through Asia. “Our role fundamentally and the strategy is to enable local forces. But does that put U.S. forces in harm’s way? It does, no question about it.”
It’s been a busy week. The Senate voted 74-21 to pass CISA, the problematic surveillance bill that has privacy advocates and civil liberties groups up in arms. In better news, the EU Parliament voted to net neutrality rules filled with loopholesthat aren’t exactly neutral. The Library of Congress approved copyright law exemptions that would allow people to modify software on their cars—but the exemptions only last three years after they begin to take effect, which won’t be for another year. And Tor launched the beta version of Tor Messenger, which looks like the easiest-to-use encrypted, anonymous instant messaging app.
But that’s not all. Each Saturday we round up the news stories that we didn’t break or cover in depth at WIRED, but which deserve your attention nonetheless. As always, click on the headlines to read the full story in each link posted. And stay safe out there!
The fact that local governments collect data on every driver’s travel history is pretty disconcerting. That idea that this data is sometimes widely available to anyone with a web browser is even scarier. Earlier this year, EFF learned that information from more than 100 auto license plate reader cameras was available online, and sometimes the camera’s live video stream (and plate captures) could be viewed in real time. The digital rights group was able to trace five cameras to their sources, and found multiple issues such as poor or default passwords, or no passwords at all. Luckily, when notified by EFF, the agencies secured the systems, but tracking the sources of all cameras wasn’t possible. Other than securing surveillance technology before using it (what a concept!) it would behoove law enforcement agencies to limit their data storage to days, not years—and only for vehicles suspected to have been involved with a crime, the EFF concluded.
The Islamic State, or ISIS, is the first terrorist group to hold both physical and digital territory: in addition to the swaths of land it controls in Iraq and Syria, it dominates pockets of the Internet with relative impunity. But it will hardly be the last. Although there are still some fringe terrorist groups in the western Sahel or other rural areas that do not supplement their violence digitally, it is only a matter of time before they also go online. In fact, the next prominent terrorist organization will be more likely to have extensive digital operations than control physical ground.
Although the military battle against ISIS is undeniably a top priority, the importance of the digital front should not be underestimated. The group has relied extensively on the Internet to market its poisonous ideology and recruit would-be terrorists. According to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, the territory controlled by ISIS now ranks as the place with the highest number of foreign fighters since Afghanistan in the 1980s, with recent estimates putting the total number of foreign recruits at around 20,000, nearly 4,000 of whom hail from Western countries. Many of these recruits made initial contact with ISIS and its ideology via the Internet. Other followers, meanwhile, are inspired by the group’s online propaganda to carry out terrorist attacks without traveling to the Middle East.
ISIS also relies on the digital sphere to wage psychological warfare, which directly contributes to its physical success. For example,
Ben Carson accidentally stumbled on a great idea for improving education
Last year, Ben Carson appeared to endorse a massive change in the way the US funds schools, asking reporter James Hamblin, “Wouldn’t it make more sense to put the money in a pot and redistribute it throughout the country so that public schools are equal, whether you’re in a poor area or a wealthy area?” The implicit idea here, of federalizing education funding and trying to eliminate the budget gap between rich and poor schools, is way more progressive than anything even Bernie Sanders has proposed. So CNN’s Jake Tapper pressed Carson further, and he stuck to his guns:
Republican presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson joined CNN’s Jake Tapper on The Lead.