Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense: ISIS on the rise in Afghanistan

ISIS GROWING IN AFGHANISTAN: The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) presence in Afghanistan grew stronger in the second half of 2015, according to a Pentagon report released Tuesday.

“The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province has progressed from its initial exploratory phase to a point where they are openly fighting the Taliban for the establishment of a safe haven and are becoming more operationally active,” the report says, using an alternate name for the group.

{mosads}The report to Congress, called “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” also details how the Taliban remains a formidable threat and the difficulties the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) face securing the country.

ISIS is mainly recruiting from disaffected Taliban and Taliban-aligned fighters, according to the report.

The latter half of 2015 also saw an increase of Taliban attacks. Fighting has been continuous since February and includes some unexpected parts of the country, such as Kunduz.

ALMOST HALF OF AMERICANS SUPPORT GROUND TROOPS: More Americans are willing to send U.S. combat troops to the Middle East to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to a new AP/GfK poll.

Forty-two percent of Americans favor deploying troops to fight ISIS, up from 31 percent in a poll conducted early this year. Thirty-two percent oppose sending troops, while 22 percent were undecided.

President Obama on Monday said that U.S. forces have accelerated their pace of airstrikes against ISIS, noting that 9,000 had been carried out against the network.

“We are hitting ISIL harder than ever,” Obama said, using another acronym for the group.

Most Americans favor airstrikes against ISIS, with 68 percent supporting the strikes, compared to 11 percent who oppose them.

Still, a majority of those surveyed in the new poll, 56 percent, said that the U.S. has “not gone far enough” in the fight against ISIS, while 29 percent said it’s “been about right” and 12 percent said the U.S. has “gone too far.”

Terrorism has been a major focus since the Paris terrorist attacks last month and the deadly shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., earlier this month.

The survey of 1,007 adults was conducted from Dec. 3 to 7 online with a margin of error of 3.4 points.

SPEAKER RYAN VOICES SUPPORT FOR ISIS WAR MEASURE: Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday expressed support for considering an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), even though he said President Obama can wage his military campaign without it.

“I do believe we have legal authorization under the 2001 [authorization for the use of military force]. I do also believe that it would be a good sign for American foreign policy to have a new one updating our AUMF to declare our mission with respect to ISIS,” he said at a breakfast hosted by Politico.

“I think that’d be good for putting America in an offensive posture,” he added. 

The Obama administration maintains it has the authority it needs under the 2001 AUMF against al Qaeda in the Afghanistan War, but some lawmakers say it’s a legal stretch, and that Congress is abdicating its responsibility by not declaring war against ISIS.

Ryan’s remarks could signal hope for members who have been pressing to pass a new measure to authorize the U.S.’s military campaign against ISIS, which formally began last August.

However, he pointed to yet another hurdle — a provision in the recently passed 2016 defense policy bill requiring the administration to present a plan to defeat ISIS to Congress.

“So we’re waiting for the president to present a plan to defeat ISIS, and so there’s a case to be made, that, let’s see what the plan to defeat ISIS is, and that is a good time to then consider whether … it’d be in our interest to have a new AUMF to accompany a new strategy to defeat ISIS.” 

“Because the strategy that we have right now — it’s not working,” said Ryan.

HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE BANNING CAMERAS? Not quite, says a committee aide.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that photographers are no longer allowed in the space on the floor between members of Congress and the witness table. 

“It is the most restrictive rule in Congress governing photographers at hearings,” Jeffrey S. Kent, director of the Senate Press Photographers’ Gallery, told The Times. 

However, Claude Chafin, communications director for the committee, said only pool photographers are allowed to remain in that space, and the others can stand to the sides until the ranking member finishes his opening statement.

After that, photographers can remain in the room but must be seated during the hearing. Chafin told the Times that the new rules would be reassessed in March, and pointed out that the hearings would still be live-streamed by C-Span.

Chafin told The Hill the restriction was due to the tight space in the often-packed hearing room — which often has reporters fighting for the available prime press seats during major hearings. 

“It is hard for photographers to understand, but it does make it very difficult for the members to hear what the witnesses are saying,” he said. “The hearings exist for members to do important oversight work and the photographers can’t impede that.”

ICYMI: 

— Senate Dems: Visa background checks should include social media

— Backlash: Los Angeles officials criticized for closing schools

— Carson: Investigate Muslim advocacy group for terrorism ties

— Bergdahl’s lawyer: Trump is a ‘big faker’

— UN nuclear agency votes to turn page on Iran

 

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

Follow us on Twitter: @thehill@kristina_wong@Rebecca_H_K

 

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