Overnight Defense: Obama sends troops to South Sudan | Pentagon hits terror group leader

THE TOPLINE: The public got new insight this week into the administration's thinking on the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with a new legal brief.

The brief argues for the dismissal of a lawsuit alleging the war is illegal. It's not illegal, the brief claims, because Congress' funding of the fight against ISIS amounts to a ratification of the president's authority to pursue the war.

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"The president has determined that he has the authority to take military action against ISIL, and Congress has ratified that determination by appropriating billions of dollars in support of the military operation," Benjamin Mizer, principal deputy assistant attorney general, and Anthony Coppolino, deputy branch director of the Justice Department's civil division, write in the brief. ISIL is the administration's preferred acronym for the terrorist group.

"Congress has made these funds available over the course of two budget cycles, in connection with close oversight of the operation's progress, and with knowledge of the authority under which the operation is being conducted," they add.

Read more here.

 

PENTAGON TARGETS TERROR LEADER: A U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan has killed the leader of a terrorist group who was responsible for planning massacres in Pakistan that killed more than a hundred children and dozens of college students.

The Hill's Kristina Wong has the story:

The Pentagon announced on Wednesday that a U.S. military airstrike had killed Umar Khalifa, a known terrorist leader with the Tariq Gidar Group, along with four other enemy combatants in Afghanistan on June 9.

The State Department designated the Tariq Gidar Group, which it described as a Pakistani Taliban-linked group based in Darra Adam Khei in Pakistan, as "specially designated global terrorists" in May.

A Pentagon statement said the airstrike, which occurred in Nangarhar Province, was "targeting Islamic State - Khorasan Province members."

Khalifa orchestrated multiple terrorist operations in Pakistan including the January 2016 attack on Bacha Khan University, the September 2015 Badaber Air Force Base attack, and the December 2014 Peshawar school attack that resulted in the deaths of more than 130 children, according to the statement.

Read the rest here.

 

TROOPS HEAD TO SOUTH SUDAN: President Obama has ordered 47 U.S. troops to go to South Sudan to protect the U.S. embassy and its staff as the country teeters on the brink of civil war.

"In response to the deteriorating security situation in South Sudan, I have ordered the deployment of additional U.S. Armed Forces personnel to South Sudan to support the security of U.S. personnel, and our Embassy in Juba," Obama wrote in a letter to Congress released Wednesday by the White House.

"I have directed this action consistent with my responsibility to protect U.S. citizens both at home and abroad, and in furtherance of U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive."

Read more here.

 

FLYNN SAYS US FORGOT 'HOW TO WIN': Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency who has been floated as a possible vice presidential candidate for Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Missouri Rep. Billy Long enters Senate GOP primary Trump-backed Mike Carey wins GOP primary in Ohio special election MORE, spoke at the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday.

The Hill's Katie Bo Williams reports on his comments:

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a possible Donald Trump running mate, argued Wednesday that the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is in part because America has "forgotten how to win wars."

"Our strategic thinking about how we go to war and fight wars has changed fundamentally, and that's a big weakness that they know. They study us. This is not a bunch of guys who I have facetiously said are in shower shoes and bathrobes," said Flynn, who has faced criticism before over rhetoric seen as anti-Muslim.

Read the rest here.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW:

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on Cybersecurity and U.S. National Security at 9:30 a.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room G-50. http://bit.ly/29P2MW0

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the "Iran Nuclear Agreement: One Year Later," at 10 a.m. at Dirksen 419. http://bit.ly/2aas9z7

The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on "Worldwide Threats to the Homeland: ISIS and the New Wave of Terror" at 10 a.m. at the Cannon House Office Building, room 311. http://bit.ly/29QDCov

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on "President Obama's Nuclear Deterrent Modernization Plans and Budgets" at 3:30 p.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. http://bit.ly/29QDiq0

 

ICYMI:

-- The Hill: Debate rages in Clinton camp over Syria policy

-- The Hill: State Department will release deleted Clinton emails

-- The Hill: Ryan: 'Dangerous call' to give Clinton classified briefings

-- The Hill: CIA head suggests he'll quit if demanded to return to waterboarding

-- The Hill: Armed Services leaders encouraged after first conference meeting

-- The Hill: CIA remains concerned about Europe's ability to track terrorists

-- The Hill: Dems, Pentagon officials, advocates celebrate end of transgender ban

-- The Hill: House approves bill blocking nuclear material purchases from Iran

-- Washington Post: Inside ISIS: Quietly preparing for the loss of the 'caliphate'

-- Military Times: Report: DOD and VA still years away from full health records sharing

-- Reuters: Russia offers to fly warplanes more safely over Baltics

 

Please send tips and comments to Kristina Wong, kwong@thehill.com, and Rebecca Kheel, rkheel@thehill.com 

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