• By Paul McLeary

    It’s Afghanistan decision time. Or is it? The National Security Council meets with President Trump at Camp David today to hash out the long-delayed Afghanistan strategy. In remarks at the State Department on Thursday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters the meeting “will move this toward a decision...We are coming very close to a decision, and I anticipate it in the very near future.” The president is being provided with several options, including the one for several thousand more troops that has been floating around since the spring, and some version of the plan put forth by former Blackwater chief Erik Prince, which would replace U.S. troops in the country with 5,500 mercenaries. Mattis confirmed earlier this week that the plan is in the mix.

    Wikileaks rejected hack Russian material. “In the summer of 2016, as WikiLeaks was publishing documents from Democratic operatives allegedly obtained by Kremlin-directed hackers, Julian Assange turned down a large cache of documents related to the Russian government, according to chat messages and a source who provided the records,” FP’s Jenna McLaughlin reports.

    “WikiLeaks declined to publish a wide-ranging trove of documents — at least 68 gigabytes of data — that came from inside the Russian Interior Ministry, according to partial chat logs reviewed by Foreign Policy.”

    ISIS claims Spanish attack. The brutal terror attack that hit Barcelona, Spain on Thursday has claimed 14 lives after a van plowed into crowds of people enjoying a summer day on one of the city’s most famous thoroughfares. Eighty others were wounded. Hours later, in the seaside town of Cambrils 70 miles to the south, police fatally shot five people who appeared to be wearing explosive belts, though these devices were later found to be fake, police said. It was Spain’s worst terrorist attack in over a decade. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

    Trump makes it up. In response, president Trump took to Twitter to repeat a silly and long-debunked story he caught heat for using during the 2016 presidential campaign. The fable goes that early last century, U.S. Gen. John Pershing executed Muslim insurgents in the Philippines with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood, thus solving the terrorism problem there. Problem is, the story is untrue. The tweet comes amid a raging controversy over the president calling some white supremacist and Nazi protesters “fine people” earlier this week, and drawing equivalence between racist groups and anti-Nazi protesters at a rally in which a Nazi sympathizer killed a 32 year-old woman.

    Mixed messages on North Korea. From the NYT: “The Trump administration plunged America’s Asian alliances into new confusion Thursday with conflicting signals over how to counter North Korea’s nuclear threat, as the chief White House strategist said a military solution was impossible.

    “Three other leading officials of the administration — its top military general on a visit to China, and its defense secretary and secretary of state in Washington — effectively contradicted him, emphasizing that Mr. Trump was prepared to take military action if necessary.

    “The mixed messages about North Korea policy added to the sense of disarray coming from the White House, where Mr. Trump appeared to have all but forgotten the crisis a week after he threatened an ad hoc “fire and fury” response to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, if he menaced the United States.”

    Welcome to SitRep. As always, please send any tips, thoughts or national security events to paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or via Twitter: @paulmcleary.

    Navy discipline for USS Fitzgerald accident. The two top officers aboard a destroyer during a deadly collision off the coast of Japan in June have been relieved of their duties, the Navy’s Seventh Fleet has announced. An unknown number of sailors on watch the evening of the incident were punished for their roles in the crash, which killed seven U.S. sailors.

    The report offers a harrowing window into the struggles of the crew to escape their berthing compartment after being jolted awake after a massive container ship barrelled into the side of the U.S. warship. Descriptions include sailors barely making it above deck as seawater rushed in, and some pulling their comrades out who had been fully submerged. The captain of the ship, whose room was hit directly, was literally hanging off of the side of the ship when rescued.

    Marines to Guam. The U.S. Navy has awarded an initial contract for a future Marine Corps base on Guam, which could host several thousand Marines in the coming years. More: “The Navy said the $164.9 million Japanese-funded contract was awarded in support of an international agreement between the U.S. and Japan. The relocation of Marines to the island has been in the works for over a decade.”

    U.S. helps to clear bombs in Mosul. “On Thursday, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said for the first time that the American military will help contractors and other officials locate unexploded bombs dropped by the coalition,” the Associated Press reports. “U.S. Embassy officials have asked the coalition to declassify grid coordinates for bombs dropped in Iraq to help clear the explosives. It may not be that simple, Gen. Stephen Townsend told a small group of reporters, ‘but we'll find a way through that.’”

    CIA torturers settle lawsuit. “Two psychologists who devised the CIA’s brutal interrogation program have settled a lawsuit with several victims less than three weeks before a jury trial was set to begin in a federal court,” the Washington Post reports.  “The settlement, reached Wednesday, caps a remarkable case in which for the first time former top CIA officials were forced to testify about their roles in the program launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The case unearthed CIA records that shed new light on the program’s creation and how controversial it was within the agency.”

    Iraq admits troops brutalized civilians. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office said Thursday that a unit of the security forces committed "abuses" against civilians while fighting in Mosul. The Iraqi government kicked off an investigation in May after German magazine Der Spiegel published images of apparent torture carried out by Interior Ministry's elite Emergency Response Division (ERD). "The committee has concluded ... that clear abuses and violations were committed by members of the ERD," a statement from Abadi's office said. It added that the perpetrators would be prosecuted.



    Photo Credit: STEPHANIE LECOCQ/AFP/Getty Images
     
     
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